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Ottawa polls fans: If season starts in December, when would you attend a game?

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The Ottawa Senators have taken a unique step in trying to appease fans during the ongoing work stoppage.

In news first reported by James Gordon of the Ottawa Citizen, the club recently emailed past ticket buyers with a poll 1) gauging how the lockout has affected interest levels, 2) rating discounts and special incentive plans and, most curiously, 3) asking how quickly they’d return to the rink if the season began in December.

Here’s more, from Gordon:

After asking fans whether or not they’re looking forward to the Senators playing again and how much the work stoppage has affected their interest in the team, the poll asks them to rate discounts on a scale from “definitely would not purchase” to “definitely would purchase.”

Perhaps sensing some early backlash, the team also asks respondents how likely they would be to take advantage of free parking in addition to one of the other incentives for the first five games of the season.

The poll also tries to gauge how quickly fans will return to the rink, asking in which month they’re most likely to attend a game if a new season starts in December.

The potential incentives include 30 percent off at concession stands, free parking, discounted merchandise and a potential Q&A session with Senators players.

A couple ways to look at this:

— Sens owner Eugene Melnyk is already on record saying he’s worried about fans abandoning the NHL.

He says he bailed on Major League Baseball after the 1994 strike (Melnyk described himself as a “rabid” Toronto Blue Jays fan in the early ’90s) and fears a similar trend will develop in the NHL because, you know, this is the second lockout in seven years.

So, this poll could be the latest olive branch extended from an organization really concerned about losing fans.

— For the optimists: Ottwaw’s strategy here could (and I stress the word “could”) be seen as getting its ducks in a row for the start of the season. If you’re trying to figure out which incentives to tack on to ticket sales, you’re probably preparing to sell tickets.

Also, the club floated a potential December start date.

— For the pessimists: Ottawa is simply in PR spin mode and wants to gauge how badly the lockout has affected its ticket-buying base. Nothing more, nothing less.

Regardless of how you view it, this story is noteworthy because Ottawa — a team that ranked sixth in attendance last year, averaging 19,356 a game — is being proactive in assessing damage.

Not exactly the “hey, we’re in Canada, fans will come back regardless” strategy now, is it?

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.