James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
AP

Panthers take bite out of Lightning, strengthen Atlantic lead

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OK, we can probably officially call this a lousy weekend for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Sure, they salvaged a win from Friday’s game against the Islanders, but it cost them injuries to Nikita Kucherov and Anton Stralman, with Stralman’s fracture looking especially ominous.

Tonight was a bigger deal, and give them all the credit you want for fighting with less than a full deck, but the Florida Panthers earned a significant victory by a 5-2 margin.

The Panthers and Lightning were playing hot potato with the division lead, but at least for one night, it’s all Panthers. They now have 93 points while the Lightning have 91, and each club has seven games left in 2015-16.

To add a little extra sting, this is the last time these two teams meet in the regular season, so the Lightning might need a little help from other squads if they hope to win the Atlantic Division in the end.

While the Bolts lick their wounds, the Panthers can at least smile a bit, especially since Jaromir Jagr‘s 25th goal of 2015-16 brings about another remarkable (if highly specific) milestone.

Elsewhere in the Atlantic, the Bruins were able to grind out a win against the Maple Leafs, improving their situation (whether they have any shot at the title or not).

Blanking Blues: St. Louis reels off team-record fourth straight shutout

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One common Hockey Twitter meme is to write “Our goalie now” and then insert a photo of a brick wall.

In the case of the St. Louis Blues, fans might need to concoct a rotation of such photos, as that joke is increasingly relevant these days.

After Brian Elliott reeled off his third consecutive shutout, he got a breather until Tuesday, but the Blues didn’t miss a beat with Jake Allen in net. He blanked the Washington Capitals to a tune of a 4-0 win, and the two quality goaltenders set a team record tonight.

This victory leaves the Blues in a virtual tie with the Dallas Stars (who won their game on Saturday as well), although Dallas holds tiebreaker advantages.

With the Stars’ injuries and the Chicago Blackhawks’ struggles, you have to think that the Blues have a strong chance to win this battle of attrition and take the Central Division title.

At worst, they have two goalies who are playing at a remarkable level right now.

Fight videos: Hair pulling, blood, dynamite punches

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This post’s alternate headline could probably be “Another day at the office for Antoine Roussel and Chris Neil.”

You can see Roussel’s work mostly after his fight with San Jose Sharks forward Tommy Wingels in the video above. The Stars super-pest pulled Wingels hair which is a very “Roussel” thing to do.

The Stars ended up beating the Sharks 4-2.

In our other bout of note, Clayton Stoner left Neil bloodied during this fight:

Injuries indeed strike Lightning twice with Kucherov, Stralman

AP
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As feared, Nikita Kucherov was not able to play in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s significant skirmish with the Florida Panthers on Saturday night.

The details are mum (file him as “undisclosed” and “day-to-day”) for Kucherov, who attempted to play but didn’t feel so great during warm-ups.

Kucherov appeared to get hurt late in the Lightning’s boisterous win against the New York Islanders on Friday. Here are a few accounts of Kucherov taking tonight’s warm-up:

Update: A slightly more descriptive way of … kind of saying the same thing about Kucherov.

Really, it’s coming down in buckets for the Lightning lately.

The biggest concerns are with Kucherov and Anton Stralman, whose return is limited to “maybe if the Lightning make a deep playoff run.”

Tampa Bay is rolling with 11 forwards and seven defensemen in this key game against the Florida Panthers. If they manage a win (they’re currently down 2-1), it would be quite the remarkable feat for a team that’s starting to show some of the promise they often exhibited last season.

Perhaps we’ll get a more exact idea regarding Kucherov’s condition later tonight?

Reunion postponed: Flu keeps Oshie from facing Blues

AP

If T.J. Oshie wants to play against his former teammates, he’ll need to wait until April 9.

That’s the last time the Washington Capitals face the St. Louis Blues, and hey, that one holds even more meaning since it takes place in St. Louis.

Oshie is unable to suit up for the Caps tonight because he’s dealing with the flu.

Oshie played the first seven seasons of his career with the Blues, appearing in 443 regular season and 30 playoff games. He joined the Capitals in a trade that sent Troy Brouwer and other assets to St. Louis.

(“Changes had to be made,” according to Oshie.)

The Blues have a lineup note of their own, as Carl Gunnarsson is sidelined with a lower-body injury, opening up a spot in the mix for Petteri Lindbohm.

Red-hot goalies Braden Holtby and Brian Elliott are taking the night off, too, so … yes, this game lost some pizzazz.