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Tim Thomas will start tonight’s powder keg vs. Buffalo

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“The last two games he’s had shutouts, so it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to make the decision for tonight. You go with your best goaltender and right now he’s rolling pretty good.”
Boston head coach Claude Julien on starting Tim Thomas against Buffalo.

Prior to this announcement, there was debate whether the Bruins should ‘hide’ Thomas given what transpired 11 days ago. (You know, that whole “Milan Lucic concussed Ryan Miller” thing…followed by the “Buffalo didn’t stand up for Miller” thing…followed by the “Sabres are coming apart at the seams” thing.)

Retribution seemed a given for tonight.

But retribution is complex, in that there are many ways to go about it. The PHT comments section — a bastion for intellectual conversation and thought-provoking ideas — suggested several options for the Sabres, one of them being the tit-for-tat method:

Run Tim Thomas. You hit our goalie, we hit yours.

(We’re not endorsing this, merely passing it along.)

But is running Thomas really an option? Sure…if someone feels like taking a 25-game vacation and putting a down payment on the Players’ Emergency Assistance yacht.  Otherwise it’s not even in the cards. Aside from the heightened awareness Brendan Shanahan has put on this game, running Thomas would be a bad move as it would only further question Buffalo’s team toughness.

If the Sabres have beef with Lucic, he should be the focus of their attention. (Well, their focus should probably be on winning the game, but that almost seems secondary at this point.) Trying to smash Thomas is akin to getting revenge on your ex-girlfriend by smashing her new boyfriend’s car window. It’s dumb, misguided and could earn you a serious beatdown in the process.

This might be a huge cliche, but it’s true: The best way for Buffalo to beat Thomas is by putting pucks past him, not taking runs at him.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. Thomas is 6-0 with a .950 save percentage and 1.50 goals against average during the month of November and as CSN New England’s Joe Haggerty put it, “looks like he’s in the middle of one of his patented hot streaks between the pipes.”

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.

Islanders believe Boyle should be suspended for hit before OT goal

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Thomas Hickey is involved in a controversial hit, yet the greater debate may revolve around the one he received rather than the one he delivered.

In the second period, the New York Islanders defenseman connected for a thunderous hit on Tampa Bay Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin, which sidelined Drouin for a chunk of Game 3.

Many believe that hit was legal:

The Islanders are upset about the Brian Boyle hit on Hickey in overtime, which came moments before Boyle scored the game-winning goal. You can see the full sequence here, with the hit happening around the 50-second mark:

Islanders head coach Jack Capuano believes that it was a suspension-worthy hit.

You’re not going to believe this, but the Lightning disagree.

Boyle clearly didn’t receive a penalty on that sequence, yet one would imagine that the league will at least take a look at that hit.

Lightning take dramatic OT win vs. Islanders, go up 2-1 in series

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Brian Boyle was part of the fight before Game 3 even started … and then he ended it in overtime.

In a Tampa Bay Lightning win in which they just kept rolling with the New York Islanders’ punches, it only seems fitting that Boyle battled to land a big hit and then score the clinching goal for a 5-4 overtime victory.

This gives the Lightning a 2-1 series lead heading into Game 4.

Also fitting? Boyle landed a big hit on Thomas Hickey, the guy who sidelined Jonathan Drouin for a chunk of this contest.

That sequence prompted a brief goal review, but it ultimately stood:

(Was that Boyle hit on Hickey dirty, by the way?)

Drama was in the air from the beginning, yet Drouin really stole the show when he came back from what some believe was a concussion to assist on Nikita Kucherov‘s last-minute goal, which sent the game to overtime.

In some ways, this win feels like a microcosm of the Lightning’s season. They keep getting hit in the mouth with injuries and near-injuries, yet they just won’t stay down.

The Islanders saw three leads disappear in this contest, but one would think that they won’t roll over, either.