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The best way to beat the Oilers? Beat up the Oilers

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If there was one thing that came from Dallas’ 4-1 win over Edmonton last night, it was this quote from Steve Ott:

“These young guns, the Edmonton Oilers, are going to be very good in the near future. But we’re a hard-working club and we laid on the body all night.”

The final hit count from last night was Stars 47, Oilers 33. Ott, Mark Fistric and Jamie Benn combined for 17 — more than half of the Oilers total. It was evident Dallas head coach Glen Gulutzan instructed his team to up its physicality against one of the league’s smallest and youngest teams:

Brendan Morrow took out Ryan Nugent-Hopkins

Fistric smoked Anton Lander

Trevor Daley upended Taylor Hall

So the blueprint for beating Edmonton is out, which presents quite a conundrum for the Oilers.

Not that it’s an entirely new one.

This problem plagued the team last year as well. In response, GM Steve Tambellini acquired the likes of Ben Eager, Darcy Hordichuk and Andy Sutton, making Edmonton tougher to play against.

But solving the problem created a new one: How much can they actually play?

Hordichuk is a liability. That, plus a hyper-extended knee, has limited him to just four games this year (with an average TOI of 2:24). Eager can play, but doesn’t seem as feisty as previous years (the Edmonton Journal called his play this season “underwhelming.”) Sutton’s the only one of the three on the ice enough to make an impact, but injuries and suspension have limited his effectiveness.

As such, Edmonton’s starting to see the difference between “tough” and “tough to play against.” There’s no denying that Hordichuk, Eager and Sutton are all tough — they combined for 19 scraps last year — but outside of chucking knuckles (and in Sutton’s case, the occasional cheapshot), they don’t make anyone’s life overly difficult.

“With our assets there are ways to beat teams who come after us that way,” head coach Tom Renney told the Edmonton Sun. “We have to make sure we play as physically as we possibly can. When we’re healthy we have enough to push back.”

The Oilers will likely get an opportunity to ‘push back’ tonight against Nashville. The Preds boast three very active hitters in Jerred Smithson, Jordin Tootoo and Shea Weber (and have a very willing fighter in Brian McGrattan.)

Fights, hits and a blown kiss: Stars and Blues get nasty

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Things were getting out of hand between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues on the scoreboard in an eventual 6-1 Blues win.

They were also getting a little raucous on the ice when it was clear that the Stars weren’t going to stage a comeback.

Jamie Benn was whistled for cross-checking Alex Pietrangelo, but it was Stephen Johns‘ hit from behind on Pietrangelo really revved up the violence.

Watch that hit and then the scrum that ensued in the video above, which included a scary display of an angry Ryan Reaves … who got creative at the end.

You may also want the kiss alone, so here it is:

Memo: rough stuff might not work so well against the Blues.

Read about that blowout here.

Blues bombard Stars, go up 2-1 in series

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Sometimes a final score is misleading. In the case of the St. Louis Blues’ 6-1 thrashing of the Dallas Stars, it might just be the start of the story.

Honestly, the most positive thing the Stars can say is “Well, at least it was just one game.”

It was one ugly game, however, and now the Blues hold a 2-1 series lead with a chance to really take control if they can win Game 4 at home.

The Blues dominated just about every category on Tuesday, firing more shots on goal, enjoying better special teams play and throwing more hits. They even blocked a higher number of shots, which often isn’t the case for the squad that carries play.

This leaves the Stars picking up the pieces, especially when it comes to their work in their own end.

Do you put greater blame on struggling goalies Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi or is this more about the Stars’ lax defensive coverage? The scary answer may be “Both,” and the Stars likely know that they need to find answers quickly.

On the bright side for Dallas, it is just one game … and the Blues were searching for answers of their own after Game 1.

We saw the Blues turn things around with these two straight wins, so now the Stars must show that they can gather themselves and play the attacking, out-score-your-mistakes style that got them here.

Granted, they may have to keep an eye out for supplemental discipline after some rough stuff toward the end of the game.

Predators smash Sharks to get back in series

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After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.

Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.

The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.

Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.

Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:

Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.

Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.

Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.

Stars’ goalie carousel goes around again: Lehtonen replaces Niemi

Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.

After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.

Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:

Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.

The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.