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Stastny leaves game with lower-body injury, Blues prevail over Maple Leafs in OT

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TORONTO (AP) Vladimir Tarasenko strode through the neutral zone, dipped around a Toronto forward, deked out another and fired a shot past Frederik Andersen for another victory for the surging St. Louis Blues.

The Blues improved to 4-1-0 under new coach Mike Yeo, beating the Maple Leafs 2-1 in overtime at the Air Canada Centre on Thursday night. St. Louis has allowed only six goals in five games under Yeo – including one in the last three outings – with goaltending from Jake Allen primarily taking a big leap forward.

Allen stopped 31 shots against the Leafs after posting a 30-save shutout two nights earlier.

“I think guys are all just jumping on board, playing hard for each other and doing the little things,” the 26-year-old Allen said about the energy around the group since the coaching change that saw Yeo replace Ken Hitchcock last week.

An assistant coach with the club previously, Yeo was due to take over the St. Louis bench next season, getting a head-start when the 65-year-old Hitchcock was dismissed amid a shaky first few months this season. The Blues had the third-best record in the NHL last season and went all the way to the Western Conference final, unable to hit those notes consistently this year.

“I really appreciate the mindset of our players right now,” Yeo said. “We recognized that that was an area of our game that we needed to improve. You can see that the commitment’s there as far as how we’re blocking shots, how we’re paying a price and doing the little things.

“But I’m going to keep saying this: we’re not there yet, we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Among the better defensive clubs in hockey last year, the Blues were surrendering more than three goals per-game at the time of Hitchcock’s firing. The worst goaltending in the league – from Allen and backup Carter Hutton – was largely to blame, though players have noted an uptick in defensive details along with some strategic tweaks from Yeo, who served as Minnesota’s head coach for five seasons.

“I think just more commitment, more discipline,” Allen said.

Playing their third game in four nights, the Blues persisted without Paul Stastny for much of the game, the 31-year-old center leaving the game with a lower-body injury after one shift in the second period. The team had no update on his status after the game.

Yeo was pleased not only with Allen’s performance but his team’s response to a “little adversity”, namely losing Stastny, who leads the team’s forward group in ice-time at nearly 20 minutes per game.

Patrik Berglund also scored for St. Louis. Morgan Rielly scored for Toronto, and Andersen made 38 saves.

The Blues outshot Toronto 17-4 over the first 20 minutes, grabbing the first goal from Berglund. The 6-foot-5 Swedish center pounced on a blocked shot in the high slot and whipped a shot under Andersen’s glove.

The Leafs finally got one past Allen with 1:04 left in the second. Nazem Kadri drove down the right side and fired a shot at Allen, the rebound trickling off William Nylander toward the weak-side to Rielly.

It was only the second goal of the season for Rielly and the first since Nov. 11.

Ekblad out again, this time with a sore neck

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It’s not concussion-related, Panthers interim coach Tom Rowe told reporters today — but defenseman Aaron Ekblad woke up this morning with a sore neck and will miss tonight’s game against Arizona.

Ekblad had only just returned to the lineup after missing four games with a concussion. He logged 18:14 in Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to Carolina.

And now he’s out again.

Certainly, the timing of Ekblad’s latest injury, not to mention the fact it’s a sore neck, will lead many to doubt Rowe’s assertion that it’s not concussion-related.

But Rowe said before the Hurricanes game that the club was being cautious with its 21-year-old star defenseman.

“We didn’t want to rush him back because he’s such a young guy,” said Rowe, per the Miami Herald. “With a concussion, we didn’t want to rush him back.”

Stars’ Janmark won’t play this season, and there’s a ‘question mark’ about next year

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In a season filled with injuries, one of the biggest Dallas suffered this season was Mattias Janmark‘s knee issue.

The 24-year-old Swede has missed the entire season thus far, but recently resumed skating and practicing with the club. That said, Janmark confirmed he won’t play this year — meaning he’ll miss the entire 82-game campaign.

And what’s more, he might miss games next season as well.

“I think there’s a question mark (about next season), but we don’t know to what degree yet,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff, per the Dallas Morning-News. “He’s progressing nicely. He still has a ways to go, but I think the fact he is practicing now and has gone this far always gives a guy like that a better chance for next year.”

Janmark’s original injury occurred during the preseason, when he knee locked up in a game against Colorado.

“He had a small segment, approximately 21 millimeters by 11 millimeters, that became displaced and is locked in his knee,” GM Jim Nill said at the time. “It’s the bone and the cartilage, they both came off together.”

Janmark underwent surgery to correct the issue, but his recovery was plagued by a preexisting congenital condition called osteochondritis dissecans. Nill said the likelihood of a full recovery was 80 percent.

Losing his services was a big blow for Dallas. After surprising onlookers by making the team out of camp in ’15-16 — a “great story,” according to Nill — Janmark had a pretty successful rookie campaign, scoring 15 goals and 29 points in 73 games.

He also fared well in the playoffs, with five points in 12 contests.

Janmark’s contract situation complicates things. He’s a pending RFA, currently in the last of a two-year, $1.6 million deal with an $733,750 cap hit. The Stars would (presumably) like to keep him, but the uncertainty regarding his health might made negotiations difficult.

Fehr injures hand, spotted in cast following Leafs debut

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Eric Fehr finally played his first game as a Maple Leaf on Wednesday night, suiting up for the first time since being acquired from Pittsburgh at the trade deadline.

It didn’t go especially well.

Fehr, who logged 10:44 TOI in a 5-2 win over Columbus, suffered a hand injury while blocking a shot in the third period and was seen afterward wearing a cast, per TSN.

According to the Toronto Sun, the 31-year-old forward confirmed he spent the night in hospital.

While a break or fracture might rule him out for the remainder of the season, it’s worth noting Fehr won’t be done entirely in Toronto. He’s in the second of a three-year, $6 million deal with a $2M cap hit. Prior to joining the Leafs he appeared in 52 games for the Pens, scoring six goals and 11 points while averaging just under 11 minutes a night.

He was also a regular in last year’s Stanley Cup run, scoring three times in 23 games.

Though his role decreased, Fehr was still frequently used by head coach Mike Sullivan — albeit in a more limited capacity. He is a good PK contributor, and can play both center and wing. Those were some of the attributes the Leafs were hoping Fehr could bring down the stretch and, should they make it, into the postseason.

He’s back: With 10 games left, Isles recall Halak

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The Isles are in full playoff push mode, and on Thursday made a move to bolster their chances.

Jaroslav Halak, the veteran netminder that’s been in AHL Bridgeport since early January, has been recalled ahead of New York’s crucial three-games-in-four-days stretch, the club announced.

It’s the latest in what’s been a tumultuous move for the 31-year-old. Halak opened the year as part of an uncomfortable three-goalie rotation — along with Thomas Greiss and Jean-Francois Berube — and was soon on the trading block after agent Allan Walsh criticized the setup on Twitter.

With no takers — and after then-head coach Jack Capuano called him out for his poor play — Halak was placed on waivers, and sent to the minors.

Halak has been really good in Bridgeport. He’s posted a 17-7-1 record with a 2.15 GAA and .925 save percentage, and a pair of shutouts. And given how spotty Berube’s play has been as Greiss’ backup, there’s a shot Halak could be making a start for the Isles soon.

As mentioned above, the club is in the midst of a compacted part of the schedule. Greiss was excellent in last night’s win over the Rangers — stopping 34 of 36 shots in a 3-2 victory — but he was also busy.

The Isles head to Pittsburgh on Friday, then host the Bruins on Saturday, then host the Preds on Monday. The Boston game looms large because, after last night, New York found itself just two points back of the B’s for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Per Newsday, there’s a real chance Halak will face the Pens on Friday, which would open the door for Greiss to take on the Bruins the following day.