San Jose Sharks v Los Angeles Kings - Game Two

Playoffs tonight: Detroit and San Jose look to change things up

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The second-round rolls on today with the Western Conference front and center for action today. One afternoon affair and another in the evening for all your viewing pleasure.

Please keep in mind that both games can be watched online in addition to the channels listed below.

Game 2: Chicago Blackhawks host the Detroit Red Wings — (1 p.m. ET, NBC)
Chicago leads series 1-0

It’s just the second game of this series, but you couldn’t help but feel things got away from Detroit in Game 1. A couple of late goals helped swing what was an even match-up into a relatively easy 4-1 win. For Detroit to try and steal one on the road, they’re going to need some help.

That assistance might come in the form of forward Drew Miller who might suit up today after missing 12 games with a broken hand. He was supposed to miss the rest of the season, so perhaps a little of inspiration could motivate the Red Wings. When it comes to trying to beat the Blackhawks, anything that can help you overcome the waves of talent they throw at you helps.

That said, outclassing Chicago’s depth players is where the challenge is. Sure, Detroit can match up Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Johan Franzen against Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Marian Hossa but it was goals from Johnny Oduya and Marcus Kruger that took Detroit out of Game 1. If they can do that the Wings might just get out of their own zone and we might just have a series to boot.

Game 3: San Jose Sharks host the Los Angeles Kings — (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
Los Angeles leads series 2-0

You can call tonight’s Game 3 a must-win game for the Sharks. After a crushing 4-3 loss in Game 2, things seem stacked up against San Jose as they look to avoid another playoff disappointment.

The big question here is: How do the Sharks bounce back from it? Being back at home where they’ve dominated this season should do the trick. Counting the playoffs, the Sharks are 19-2-5 at HP Pavilion. They’ll need that home-ice help if they’re to overcome a Kings team that’s looking ever more like the team that won the Stanley Cup last season.

Making life harder for the Sharks, it’s possible forward Kyle Clifford returns to action for L.A. tonight. The rugged forward is the ideal sort of playoff player in that he hits a lot and can help push the offense. The Sharks could counter with some offensive help of their own as Martin Havlat could be ready to play as well.

Thing to look for: Can the Sharks keep their minds off the officials after how Game 2 finished up or will an iffy call early mentally derail them? They’d better hope so or else this series could be over in short order.

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.