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Lidstrom on ankle injury: “That sharp pain is not there like it was a week ago”

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After missing the last 10 games with an ankle injury — and set to miss game No. 11 tonight — Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom’s finally seeing light at the end of a long recovery tunnel.

“I can pivot better today, skate and push a little bit more,” Lidstrom told NHL.com. “A week ago out in L.A., when I skated out there, it was too sharp of a pain — just that stabbing pain where I couldn’t walk with my skate. That’s a lot better.

“It still hurts turning and pivoting, when I put pressure on that point, but that sharp pain is not there like it was a week ago.”

This is a big development for the Red Wings, who are 3-6-1 without Lidstrom and 1-6-1 over their last eight games. They’re in desperate need of the captain’s return…and the return of defensemen in general. Jonathan Ericsson (wrist) will miss his 11th straight game on Wednesday while Jakub Kindl (upper body) will miss his eighth.

Without those three in the lineup, Detroit head coach Mike Babcock has been forced to use a patchwork blueline. In Monday’s 5-3 loss to Washington, 31-year-old journeyman Doug Janik dressed for just the eighth time this year (and played over 15 minutes) while rookie Brendan Smith made just his 13th appearance and played 17:57, the second-highest ice time of his career.

Understandably, Lidstrom wants back in the lineup.

“It’s always hard sitting on the sidelines, and when the team is not playing well you want to be there to help the team, be a part of the team, be in the locker room,” Lidstrom said. “It’s frustrating when you can’t be a part of that.”

Reports indicate that Saturday’s home date against Carolina could mark Lidstrom’s return to the lineup, though neither Lidstrom or the club would confirm. The seven-time Norris winner did say that trainers are concerned about him rushing back too quickly and suffering a setback.

“You want to get some games in before the playoffs start to get back to game tempo and game situations,” Lidstrom said. “On the other side, you don’t want to get hurt again and take a couple steps backward.

“You want to be careful with it, but you have to test it out, try it, see how it feels.”

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.