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Bolts concerned about Bishop: ‘He’s having health issues, for sure’

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After watching Ben Bishop get knocked out of action three times in the last month, Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper admitted he’s worried about his No. 1 netminder.

“Clearly there is a concern,” Cooper said, per the Tampa Bay Times. “To start games and not finish when I’m not the one giving him the hook … he’s having health issues, for sure.”

Here’s more, from the Times:

That concern played itself out before Saturday’s 4-2 win over the Red Wings. Cooper said he might warm up Bishop, Cedrick Desjardins and Kristers Gudlevskis (called up from AHL Syracuse as insurance) before naming a tandem. As it turned out, only Bishop and Gudlevskis warmed up, and Bishop got the start.

None of that diminished the worry about Bishop, who left the Jan. 5 game at Edmonton with a wrist injury, the Jan. 30 game at Ottawa after he was inadvertently kicked in the head by teammate Nikita Kucherov and Thursday against the Maple Leafs with an upper-body injury.

“Ben doesn’t pull himself out of games because he doesn’t want to play,” Cooper said. “He’s pulling himself out of games because it’s extremely painful to play. So the Olympic break (which begins today) is probably going to help him.”

One wonders if the rigors of being a No. 1 goalie are catching up to Bishop. The NHL’s tallest netminder had no experience carrying the load prior to this year — in fact, Bishop had never appeared in more than 22 games in any of his first four seasons in the league. This year, he hit the 22 game mark by early December.

It’ll be really interesting to see how Tampa Bay and Cooper handle Bishop’s minutes and health post-Olympics. The 27-year-old has Vezina-worthy numbers (28-8-4, 1.99 GAA, .933 save percentage) and, given the injury to Steve Stamkos, could very well be the Lightning’s MVP, so he’s vitally important to the club’s success.

The club will probably look to give Bishop some rest down the stretch, but it won’t be easy. Backup goalie Anders Lindback is out with an ankle injury and while Tampa is in a good spot standings-wise, things promise to get tight after the break. The Bolts are only seven points up on eighth-place Detroit in the playoff chase and will begin their post-Olympic schedule with a tough four-game road swing through Nashville, Dallas, Colorado and St. Louis.

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.