2011 NHL Winter Classic Practice

Ovechkin, Malkin headline Russian Olympic team; Semin, Gonchar snubbed

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The host nation has named its Olympic roster and, as expected, it’s loaded up front.

Led by Pavel Datsyuk, Evgeni Malkin and reigning NHL MVP Alex Ovechkin, Russia trotted out a star-studded group on Tuesday, though there were some omissions that caught the hockey world by surprise.

Carolina’s Alex Semin — playing very well of late, and a member of the ’10 Olympic squad — won’t be playing in Sochi, nor will veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar.

Other notable omissions from the Russian roster include Florida’s Dmitry Kulikov, Edmonton’s Nail Yakupov and New Jersey’s Anton Volchenkov.

As for those that made the team…

Russia embraced its youth by selecting 18-year-old Dallas rookie Valeri Nichushkin and 22-year-old Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko. They’ll be joined by 25-year-old Viktor Tikhonov, a former first-round pick (Phoenix, 2008) that’s currently playing for SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL.

In goal, the Russians made no surprises by going with Sergei Bobrovsky and Semyon Varlamov. The third spot went to Alexander Yeryomenko, a 33-year-old KHL veteran.

On defense, the team went NHL-heavy with six of eight blueliners coming from North America. They include Edmonton’s Anton Belov, Montreal’s Alexei Emelin and Andrei Markov, Columbus’ Nikita Nikitin and Fedor Tyutin, and Los Angeles’ Slava Voynov.

It is at forward, though, where the Russians are most dangerous. In addition to the aforementioned Datsyuk-Malkin-Ovechkin trio, the club also features Nichushkin, Tarasenko, Artem Anisimov, Nikolai Kulemin and Ilya Kovalchuk.

Here is the full roster, per TSN:

Goalkeepers: Sergei Bobrovsky, Semyon Varlamov, Alexander Yeryomenko.

Defenders: Anton Belov, Alexei Emelin, Andrei Markov, Evgeny Medvedev, Nikita Nikitin, Ilya Nikulin, Fedor Tyutin, Slava Voynov.

Forwards: Artem Anisimov, Pavel Datsyuk, Denis Kokarev, Ilya Kovalchuk, Nikolai Kulemin, Evgeni Malkin, Valeri Nichushkin, Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Popov, Alexander Radulov, Sergei Soin, Vladimir Tarasenko, Alexei Tereshenko, Viktor Tikhonov.

UPDATE: Team Russia lost Denis Kokarev and Sergei Soin and replaced them with forwards Alexander Svitov and Alex Semin.

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.