Nino Niederreiter

Rash of injuries ruins Lightning’s win against Wild

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On the scoreboard, the Tampa Bay Lightning are looking sharp so far against the Minnesota Wild. Heck, even Andrej Sustr has a goal.

We’ve seen some big comebacks lately, so it’s not safe to assume that the Bolts will just cruise to victory. Yet, even if they do, Thursday could pose some problems.

The Lightning are crossing their fingers about injury situations for forwards Tyler Johnson and Vladislav Namestnikov after separate moments of concern.

Johnson needed help off the ice after a collision (possibly knee-to-knee) with Wild forward Nino Niederreiter while Namestnikov also needed help off the ice following an awkward fall, which you can watch below. The Johnson injury is included in the clip above this post’s headline.

With Steven Stamkos injured and Brian Boyle shuttled off to Toronto, these injuries could make the Lightning especially thin at center. It’s unclear how bad either ailment is at this time, however, so we’ll see.

We do know that neither will return tonight, though:

Update: The good news for Tampa Bay is that they won 4-1. The bad news is that ANOTHER Lightning forward got hurt, as Cedric Paquette also left Thursday’s game.

No hearing scheduled for Niederreiter after Sharp hit

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Minnesota’s Nino Niederreiter isn’t scheduled to face a disciplinary hearing for his hit on Dallas’ Patrick Sharp on Thursday night, an NHL spokesman confirmed.

Niederreiter was given a five-minute interference and game misconduct in the late stages of the Wild’s 3-1 win.

The hit sent Sharp cartwheeling to the ice, though, upon replay, Niederreiter got his skates tangled with Radek Faksa prior to the collision. That appeared to send the Wild forward into Sharp’s path inadvertently.

As such, it’s not a big surprise the 24-year-old escaped supplementary discipline.

There was some concern about Sharp, who’s missed significant time with concussion issues this season and appeared to be shaken up on the play. Thankfully for him and the Stars, he appeared no worse for wear.

That said, Dallas head coach Lindy Ruff didn’t like the hit. At all.

“I just saw a pretty dirty hit on Sharp, that’s all I saw,” Ruff said following the game. “Cutting a guy’s knees out, that’s pretty tough.”

Niederreiter ejected as Wild hand Stars another crushing loss

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Thanks to their 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night the Dallas Stars were losers for the third game in a row and the seventh time in the past eight games.

This recent stretch leaves the Stars seven points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference with 23 games to play on the schedule, and puts their playoff chances in serious jeopardy.

The Stars fell behind with less than one second to play in the first period when Ryan Suter scored a buzzer-beating goal off of a slick set face off play. The Stars were never able to tie the game after that.

Along with another loss, the Stars were also on the receiving end of some physical play late in the game.

After Charlie Coyle was penalized for taking out goaltender Kari Lehtonen behind the net (see it here), Wild forward Nino Niederreiter was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct for interference for this hit on forward Patrick Sharp.

No word yet from the NHL if Niederreiter will face a hearing for the play.

Stars coach Lindy Ruff was asked about the play after the game.

“I just saw a pretty dirty hit on Sharp. That is what I saw,” said Ruff. “You know, cut the guy’s knees out. Pretty tough.”

While the Stars are in trouble when it comes to making the playoffs, the win helps the Wild extend their lead in the Central Division to seven points over the Chicago Blackhawks.

Graovac assigned to AHL, as Wild look for more from fourth line

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Tyler Graovac has cleared waivers and been assigned to AHL Iowa.

It’s good news for the Minnesota Wild, who didn’t want to lose the 23-year-old center for nothing, even if he had been struggling.

Yesterday, the Wild recalled forwards Zack Mitchell and Alex Tuch, with GM Chuck Fletcher saying the team needs more out of its fourth line, which had been comprised of Graovac, Jordan Schroeder, and Chris Stewart.

“A fourth line like that, they can’t play the way that they have been playing,” Fletcher said, per the Star Tribune. “They have to win more battles and turn fewer pucks over. That’s not a recipe for success. It’s not all Graovac certainly. I think all three of them have slipped in the last couple weeks and we have to try to get a better recipe for what we want to do with that line.”

Tonight against Anaheim, the fourth line will be centered by Erik Haula, flanked by Stewart and Mitchell. Schroeder is expected to be a healthy scratch.

Tuch, meanwhile, will skate on the top line with Nino Niederreiter and Eric Staal, and Charlie Coyle will center the third line between Zach Parise and Jason Pominville.

NHL On NBC: Red Wings will try to slow down Wild

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NBC’s coverage of the NHL continues on Sunday afternoon when the Minnesota Wild host the Detroit Red Wings at 3 p.m. ET. You can catch all of the action on NBC or on our Live Stream right here.

It is another Star Sunday with today’s Detroit-Minnesota game paying special attention to Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg and Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk.

These two teams enter play on Sunday rolling in two very different directions.

The Red Wings, just 6-7-6 since Jan. 1 and riding a three-game losing streak heading into Sunday’s game, have fallen to last place in the Eastern Conference (with the second-worst goal differential at minus-25) and are going to need a near miracle to surge back into a playoff position before the end of the season to keep their streak of consecutive playoff appearances alive.

It’s only a seven-point gap between them and a playoff spot, but this late in the season, and with literally every other team in the East standing in front of them, that is a massive gap to overcome with with less than 30 games to play.

Zetterberg has been one of the few bright spots in Detroit this season with a team-high 40 points and is still the best two-way player on the roster.

He enters play on Sunday with nine points in his past eight games, including three multi-point games.

The Wild, on the other hand, remain one of the hottest teams in the NHL and look to be on their way to giving coach Bruce Boudreau yet another division title to add to his resume with a third team. The only year he hasn’t won a regular season division title as a head coach was the 2011-12 season. The Wild, coming off of a 2-1 shootout win over Tampa Bay on Friday night, continue to hold a three-point lead over the Chicago Blackhawks and still have three additional games in hand the rest of the way. While the Red Wings have been sputtering since the start of the new calendar year, the Wild have been nearly unstoppable with a 13-3-2 record since Jan. 1, earning 28 out of a possible 34 points in the standings during that stretch.

It has been a total team effort, too, with Devan Dubnyk playing at a Vezina Trophy level in goal while five forwards (Mikael Granlund, Jason Pominville, Nino Niederreiter, Jason Zucker and Mikko Koivu) all have at least 14 points during that stretch.