Jarmo Kekalainen

With three first-round picks, Kekalainen says Columbus will be ‘active and aggressive’ at Draft

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If Jarmo Kekelainen’s past is any suggestion, he’ll be one to watch at the NHL Entry Draft.

The Blue Jackets GM — who, two months ago, shook up the trade deadline by acquiring Marian Gaborik — has vowed to be a mover and/or shaker at Sunday’s draft in New Jersey.

“Every draft is different, not just the players available but the conversations between clubs,” he told the Columbus Dispatch. “We’re going to be active and aggressive.”

That’s a quote worth paying attention to, as the rookie GM has the tools at his disposal to make a real splash.

Columbus holds three first-round picks — No. 14, 19 and 27 overall — and heads into Sunday with 17 players under contract for next season and over $18 million in cap space.

Kekalainen also has experience in holding three first-round picks from his time as St. Louis’ “draft guru.”

Here’s more, from the Dispatch:

In 2007, the Blues had three first-round picks — Nos. 9, 24 and 26 — at the draft in Nationwide Arena. Six years later, the results are a mixed bag. Kekalainen said the Blues tried hard to move up but couldn’t find any takers. So they traded down from the No. 9 spot, giving that pick to San Jose for No. 13 overall, a second-round pick and a third-round pick in 2008.

The Sharks took Logan Couture with the No. 9 pick, and the Blues took Lars Eller, who was later traded to Montreal for goaltender Jaroslav Halak. The Blues traded the No. 24 pick and a third-round pick to Calgary for No. 18 and took defenseman Ian Cole, who has had a so-so career. With the 26th overall pick, the Blues drafted [David] Perron, one of their “foundation” players.

“We would have taken Eller at No. 9, but we thought we’d get him later, and we were right,” Kekalainen said. “For San Jose, Couture was definitely a player worth moving up for.”

Kekalainen says his approach to drafting players is very basic.

“I have a very simple philosophy: You work hard and you rely on your instincts, which are shaped by your experiences,” he explained. “You have to get to the core of the player, find out what motivates them, find out what they’re about.”

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.