Toronto Maple Leafs v Boston Bruins

Kulemin wants NHL over KHL next year, says agent

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The longest-serving Maple Leaf might not be back in Toronto next year, but he’s planning to stay in North America.

That’s what Gary Greenstin — the agent representing Leafs winger Nikolai Kulemin, told the Toronto Sun this week — saying Kulemin “remains set” on playing in the NHL next season.

Here’s more, from the Sun:

[Greenstin] had informal chats with both director of hockey operations Dave Poulin and assistant GM Claude Loiselle. Kulemin, the longest-serving Leaf, made $2.8 million US this year, but might not be back at that price, given how everything has gone with the Leafs of late.

“I’d like to say he’ll be with the Maple Leafs and winning the Stanley Cup,” Greenstin said with a smile. “But right now, he’s under contract until June 30 and we’ll go from there.”

Kulemin, 27, is in his sixth season with Toronto. He had a career year in 2010-11, scoring 30 goals and 57 points while appearing in all 82 games, and was rewarded with a two-year, $5.6 million extension in July 2012.

This year, he has nine goals and 20 points in 64 games, averaging over 16 minutes a night. There’s a good chance teams would be interested in him come free agency but, with that said, it’s hard to ignore Kulemin’s ties to Russia and the KHL.

A product of Metallurg Magnitogorsk, Kulemin is a decorated international participant, representing Russia at the World Under-18s, the World Juniors, the Word Hockey Championships and two Winter Olympics (all told he’s won a bronze, two silvers and two goals combined.) Greenstin told the Sun that Kulemin would welcome another chance to suit up for Russia at the ’14 Worlds, to be held in May in Belarus.

It’s alto worth noting Kulemin still has strong ties to Metallurg, having spent considerable time there during the lockout. Kulemin notched 38 points in 34 games during the 2012-13 campaign and finished third on the team in scoring.

As for his future in Toronto…here’s what Darren Dreger told TSN Radio yesterday:

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.