Kari Lehtonen

Stars putting their hopes in Lehtonen

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The Dallas Stars have high aspirations for this season, but whether or not they can actually succeed in being a serious Stanley Cup contender will be largely dependent on their goaltending.

The Stars defense doesn’t look like a Cup-caliber group, so they’ll need goaltender Kari Lehtonen to help pick up the slack. Is he up for the challenge though? Well, there’s two obvious areas of concern with him.

One is his history of groin and back problems. Those didn’t prove to be a big issue in 2013-14, but there’s the looming threat of them hindering the 30-year-old going forward. The other is his lack of playoff experience. The Stars’ 2014 series against Anaheim represented just his second postseason stint and his first since 2007. He didn’t look particularly impressive during the Stars-Ducks series and Dallas just has to hope that he will improve in 2015 now that he has a better idea of what to expect.

If he can’t hold his own in the playoffs or his campaign gets derailed by injuries, then things could start looking ugly for Dallas in a hurry. The Stars will enter the season with either Anders Lindback or Jussi Rynnas serving as the backup goaltender. Lindback is coming off of a playoff experience worse than Lehtonen’s and while Lindback has the potential to be a good goaltender, he was shaky overall in two seasons with Tampa Bay. Rynnas had a strong campaign in Finland, but it wasn’t that long ago that he was essentially buried in the Maple Leafs’ farm system.

So while Lindback and Rynnas are both interesting options, neither is a safe bet to be a solid backup goaltender, let alone someone that can be trusted to lead the team.

Of course, the X-factor in all of this is Jack Campbell. The 22-year-old is one of the better goaltending prospects out there and while he was only healthy enough to play in 16 AHL games last season, he did finish with a 1.49 GAA and .942 save percentage. It was likely that lack of playing time in 2013-14 that prompted Stars GM Jim Nill to sign Lindback and Rynnas in order to buy Campbell at least one more season worth of development in the minors. Still if Lehtonen ends up suffering a significant injury in 2014-15, it might mark the start of the Campbell era in Dallas.

Penguins push Capitals to brink of elimination with OT win

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The Pittsburgh Penguins ended a long run of playoff overtime struggles on Wednesday … and are now one win away from ending the Washington Capitals’ season.

Many expected the Penguins to crater on defense without Kris Letang (they were 2-8-1 in the regular season without him). While there were shaky moments, Pittsburgh emphasized its speed and other strengths in taking a 3-2 overtime thriller against Washington.

With that, the Penguins’ series lead grows to 3-1.

It was a thrilling, sometimes nasty contest, from Sidney Crosby shaking off an Alex Ovechkin slash, to Evgeni Malkin delivering a hit some thought was over the line and plenty of typical playoff skirmishes.

Ultimately, Matt Murray played another strong game and Patric Hornqvist scored the overtime-winner to put the Capitals in a tough spot.

The Penguins lost their previous eight playoff overtime games, so maybe it was just a matter of time before such a game went their way?

Then again, the history between the two teams is a little different:

If the Capitals want to advance beyond the second round for the first time in the Ovechkin era, they’ll need to accomplish quite the feat against arguably the hottest team in the NHL.

Sidney Crosby looks hurt (and furious) after Alex Ovechkin slash

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NBCSN screen
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Sidney Crosby is known to get fiery, but even for his feisty standards, he was furious during the third period of Game 4.

An Alex Ovechkin slash caught Crosby on the hand, leaving the Pittsburgh Penguins star shaking his mitt and pleading for a call.

After that, Crosby left to get his hand looked at … but not before flipping out and destroying his stick.

You can watch it happen in the GIF and the videos above.

Crosby was able to return not that long after that moment, although we can only speculate regarding how his overall game will be affected if his hand isn’t 100 percent.

Dirty or not? Evgeni Malkin’s hit on Daniel Winnik

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Tensions seem to rise with every passing game in the playoffs, particularly in a series with bad blood like the one between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals.

Kris Letang was suspended for his hit in Game 3, and some wonder if Evgeni Malkin should suffer a similar fate for his check on Daniel Winnik on Wednesday.

Winnik left the contest and has not yet returned during the third period.

Take a look at the hit in the video above and decide for yourself.

Blues aim to raise money for victims of Fort McMurray fires

An evacuee puts gas in his car on his way out of Fort McMurray, Alberta, as a wildfire burns in the background Wednesday, May 4, 2016. The raging wildfire emptied Canada's main oil sands city, destroying entire neighborhoods of Fort McMurray, where officials warned Wednesday that all efforts to suppress the fire have failed.  (Jason Franson /The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
AP
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Fires devastated the Canadian city of Fort McMurray, and the St. Louis Blues are doing their part to help those who were affected.

Here’s what the team is doing to raise money during Game 4 against the Dallas Stars:

Proceeds raised through the team’s 50/50 raffle and the Blues for Kids silent auction will benefit families who have been misplaced by the fires.

Blues forward Scottie Upshall shared his thoughts with the Associated Press regarding several family members being among those evacuated from the area.

“It’s been a great city, a city that’s survived for many years through some tough times and for me, growing up there doesn’t seem too long ago,” Upshall said. “Places that probably aren’t standing anymore will be really, really tough to take. But as long as everyone’s OK, that’s the main thing.”

Other people from around the hockey world weighed in on the scary scene, including Ottawa Senators defenseman Chris Phillips, who told the Ottawa Citizen that “it hurts a lot.”

People shared some scary sights from the evacuation.