Author: James O'Brien

Dallas Stars v Chicago Blackhawks

WATCH LIVE: Stars at Blackhawks (8 p.m. ET)

The Dallas Stars are red-hot right not, but are they for real?

That’s not really a question that gets properly answered in early January, yet the Chicago Blackhawks serve about as perfect a barometer for legitimacy as any team in the NHL. The Stars have won four in a row and eight of nine games, so it should be an awfully interesting Sunday night tilt on NBCSN.

You can watch the game and the pregame show via the NBC Sports’ Live Extra Stream.


Want more on the game? Check out this detailed preview.

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    Fine, then: Hextall approved Flyers’ holiday travel despite CBA violation

    Ron Hextall

    The salary cap keeps NHL spending fairly even, but the league’s richer franchises can stomach other bills that others might not stomach.

    That often translates to more front office spending, yet one cannot help but wonder if the Philadelphia Flyers thought that friendlier holiday travel would be worth whatever CBA-related fines the NHL might send their way.

    In case you missed it, Philly violated Article 16.5(b) by traveling during a three-day period (Dec. 24-26) in which travel wasn’t allowed, as their team plane reportedly departed from Nashville at 8:24 p.m. ET on the 26th.

    GM Ron Hextall took the fall for such a thought process, as he told on Sunday.

    “We were aware of the rule and certainly accept the league’s decision,” Hextall said. “I was approached by the players and after giving it some thought, it was pretty hard not to allow them the best possible chance to win the game, given the fact they have shown the commitment that they want to do something that is best for the hockey club.

    “In the end, we were willing to accept the consequences.”

    If the extra rest has given the Flyers any kind of boost, it’s been … subtle. After all, they’ve lost all five games since returning from the holiday break, only managing one standings point in the process. About the only good news is that they’re traveling back to Philly on Saturday for a four-game homestand.

    Hextall didn’t divulge the details regarding the price of the fine – the range is pretty wide as it could be as low as $10K and as high as $100K – but it sounds like the Flyers are comfortable lying in that bed.

    Their opponents might have been griping if they actually won games, particularly close to that “extra break,” though.

    Luongo says he’s fine after collision with Ovechkin (Update)

    Roberto Luongo

    The Florida Panthers have been frisky this season, and Roberto Luongo’s been a big part of that. Hopefully he didn’t get hurt too badly on Sunday, then.

    Luongo initially shook off a significant collision with Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin late in the first period, but he didn’t return to action in the final frame. It looks like Al Montoya will take over for the remainder of the contest while an update may come sometime after the game’s over, according to the Miami Herald’s George Richards.

    About the best news is that he returned to the bench midway through the third period.

    Update: Luongo, 35, said that he’s fine and just left the game for precautionary reasons, Richards reports.

    There was no penalty on the play as Ovechkin collided with Luongo, who was trying to stop a chance in bold Dominik Hasek-like fashion.

    Here’s video of the collision:

    Rask wonders if Bruins could use a few pregame beers

    Tuukka Rask

    Hockey players have their pregame rituals. Some, like Nicklas Lidstrom in his playing days, eat the same boring meal. You don’t hear about players enjoying a couple cold ones before a contest, though … at least not publicly.

    Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask almost seems out of ideas after his team fell flat against the Carolina Hurricanes in a 2-1 shootout loss on Sunday, so he pitched an outside-the-keg idea to

    “Yeah, maybe mix in a couple of beers before the games. That would make us relax. That might be the final option,” Rask said. “We don’t see a play and don’t make it, then we try to force a play and it’s a turnover where we spend a minute in our own end. That’s how it is. It’s mental…it’s mental. It’s not like the skill is gone.”

    The 27-year-old was joking for comic effect (one would assume), but maybe there’s a kernel of truth in the Bruins over-thinking things.

    Whatever the explanation was, Rask was confounded by the fact that the Bruins went 17 minutes without a shot on goal.

    The Bruins have now lost three straight games, all after regulation. While that means Boston is at least squeezing out standings points, it’s understandable that Rask & Co. are frustrated.

    Maybe they need to take a break (and possibly crack open a brew or two)? The Bruins don’t play again until Wednesday, so maybe this is the breather an anxious bunch needs.

    Oshie nets hat trick as Blues bombard Sharks

    St Louis Blues v New York Islanders

    Things haven’t been going smoothly for St. Louis since the Blues visited California in mid December, so maybe it makes sense to have a big breakout in San Jose.

    The Blues baffled the Sharks to the tune of a 7-2 score on Saturday thanks in large part to T.J. Oshie, who generated the second hat trick of his NHL career and also grabbed an assist. The American-born winger now has a five-game point streak in which he’s generated five goals and three assists.

    To keep it fairly simple, let’s just take a look at Oshie’s three goals:

    It was a nice night for the Blues, who won one for Brian Elliott and excelled with Jaden Schwartz back in the lineup.

    This marks just the second win in the nine games they’ve played since facing the Kings in Los Angeles on Dec. 18.

    Things haven’t been a lot better for San Jose, as they’ve lost four of five since Dec. 22 and face a three-game road run starting on Monday.

    Whatever the future holds for each team, it was clear that the Blues were the much better team on Saturday night.