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Cue the Shea Weber-to-Edmonton speculation

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Edmonton general manager Craig MacTavish said yesterday that it “would help immensely” if the Oilers could acquire a “big stud defenseman.”

This, not surprisingly, has led to all sorts of speculation. Who could MacTavish target?

Well, longtime Oilers beat writer Jim Matheson has an idea: Nashville captain Shea Weber, who Matheson calls “one of the three or four best defensemen in the game.”

Aim high, right?

From the Edmonton Journal:

So if you’re Craig MacTavish, who’s untouchable?

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? Taylor Hall? Jordan Eberle? Justin Schultz? Nail Yakupov?

So we know MacTavish would give up his 2014 first-round pick, for a stud D-man. What else?

I’d say MacTavish would really need his arm cranked to move Hall or RNH. You’d be loathe to deal your No.1 centre or your emotional leader in Hall. And you outbid everybody in the NHL to sign Justin Schultz out of U of Wisconsin so you’d have to swallow hard to consider giving him up. Yakupov is not untouchable. I’d say, the Predators would jump through hoops to get Eberle and Schultz (the scorer on the wing and the puck-moving D-man). But, they’d still be missing a centre? They wouldn’t mind Sam Gagner. I’m sure the Predators have scouted tough defenceman Darnell Nurse and Swedish blueliner Oscar Klefbom, too, for prospects.

Granted, we still don’t know if Preds general manager David Poile is even willing to entertain offers for Weber. But here are a few reasons the Oilers might be able to tempt him:

— The Preds have a budget, and right now a lot of it is being used up by Weber, whose heavily front-loaded contract looks like this (per CapGeek):

source:

That’s a big nut for a team like Nashville, which, according to Forbes’ estimates, ranks near the bottom of the league in revenue.

— The Preds have Seth Jones now. No, he’s not an elite NHL defenseman yet. But the Preds aren’t an elite team either. It’s not like they’ll be making a run for the Stanley Cup this spring. In the Western Conference, they’re a long shot to even make the playoffs.

— The Preds need young, talented forwards. Badly. And the Oilers have plenty of those. Poile may not be interested in Yakupov (see: that whole experience with Alexander Radulov), but if MacTavish put Hall on the table?

And make no mistake, MacTavish would have to at least consider putting Hall on the table. This is Shea Weber we’re talking about. A guy that could — well, let’s use MacTavish’s words here — really “move the team forward in a rapid fashion.”

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.