Author: James O'Brien

ZachParise

Putting Wild in wild card: Minnesota topples Dallas late

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It’s almost hard to believe that the Dallas Stars had a 1-0 lead against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday. Things changed sharply in the third period, as the Wild crushed Dallas 6-2 overall to keep their red-hot run alive.

As much as this hot streak revolves around acquiring Devan Dubnyk, this game was largely about guys who’ve been in Minnesota a little longer.

Zach Parise (two goals) and Mikael Granlund (one goal, two assists) probably stood out the most as the Wild scored six goals in the third period, the most of any team in the NHL so far this season.

Here’s video of those six Minnesota goals:

Minnesota on a mission

The numbers all smile for the Wild, as they’ve won six in a row at home. They’ve come a long way since falling below .500 (18-19-5) following a dispiriting 7-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Jan. 13.

This win places the Wild eight overall for at least the moment:

7. Winnipeg – 71 points in 61 games played (24 regulation/OT wins)
8. Minnesota: 69 points in 59 GP (29 ROW)

9. Calgary: 68 points in 59 GP (29 ROW)
10. San Jose: 68 points in 61 GP (28 ROW)

Stars falling

Dallas is now starting to lag behind the pack with 63 points in 60 games played. They’ve now lost three games in a row and four of their last five, a stretch that might just be deadly for a Stars team that really needs an epic run to make it to the playoffs (after doing something similar last season).

For much of this game, it seemed like these two teams were evenly matched. That changed in a stark way in the almost-brutal final 20 minutes, though.

Blackhawks give Darling two-year extension

Scott Darling
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When word surfaced that the Chicago Blackhawks made some AHL swaps, people wondered if there’d be more moves. There’s at least one on Sunday, as Scott Darling signed a two-year contract extension with the team.

The financial terms weren’t revealed, but the contract covers the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons.

This happening doesn’t quell the rumors that another move might happen, however. Could there be a ripple effect in Chicago’s net?

In case you’re wondering, here are some stats for Chicago’s (current?) three goalies of most relevance:

Corey Crawford, 30 years old: 23-14-4, .918 save percentage, 2.36 GAA and one shutout.

Antti Raanta, 25: 7-4-1, .936, 1.89 and 2 SO.

Scott Darling, 26: 5-2-0, .937, 1.97 and zero SO.

Not exactly poor work from Chicago’s goalies, especially the backups, although perhaps the Blackhawks are concerned about a recent slump? It could mean more in the future, but perhaps it’s just a simple backup swap.

Either way, it seems like Darling might have a brighter future in Chicago than Raanta, at least at the moment.

Blackhawks recall Darling, demote Raanta; more moves to come?

Scott Darling
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After a stunning 6-2 loss to the Boston Bruins, the Chicago Blackhawks made some interesting transactions on Sunday. The question is: are the Blackhawks opening up space for bigger moves to come?

Here’s what we know for sure: Scott Darling and Joakim Nordstrom are back in the NHL while Antti Raanta and Ryan Hartman were demoted to the AHL.

Looking at the move in a vacuum, it’s reasonable enough, especially after Chicago’s goalies had a rough afternoon against the Bruins. Darling (pictured) showed some nice flashes of brilliance in his time at the top level, after all.

Again, with the trade deadline approaching and the Blackhawks sagging as of late – GM Stan Bowman visited the locker room after Sunday’s loss – some speculate that this could be the calm before the storm.

Take the Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus, for example:

What kind of move should Bowman make if there’s something in the works?

Nashville wins, but Neuvirth is making Buffalo pesky

Michal Neuvirth
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The Buffalo Sabres haven’t been that much better as a team lately – at least as far as any reasonable stat goes – but Michal Neuvirth is on such a hot run that it’s not as safe to write them off as an easy win.

Yes, the Nashville Predators won 2-1 via a shootout on Sunday, but they had to sweat this one thanks almost entirely to Neuvirth’s efforts. They trailed for most of the third period until Mike Ribeiro was the only Predator who could thwart Neuvirth in regulation (and on the power play, to boot).

Overall, Neuvirth stopped 37 out of 38 shots. While he’s still not really winning, just look at what the 26-year-old goalie’s done in February:

1-3-2 record, .944 save percentage, 1.93 GAA.

One almost wonders if Neuvirth might just play himself out of Buffalo, as his strong work may just be a threat to what many believe is a tank job.

In other words, there’s at least some room for concern that the Sabres’ bid for a guaranteed top-two pick could even hit a wall:

Columbus GM says there’s no pending Wisniewski trade

Sergei Bobrovsky, James Wisniewski
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When word surfaced that the Columbus Blue Jackets made James Wisniewski a healthy scratch, it only seemed natural that trade rumors would percolate. It sounds like such rumblings were unfounded, however.

GM Jarmo Kekalainen told the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline that “there is no pending trade” for the expensive-but-marketable defenseman.

There are two ways to look at this from a trade perspective (there are plenty of ways to interpret Wisniewski sitting, on the other hand):

1. The Blue Jackets simply have zero interest in trading him.

2. Kekalainen is using tricky wording by saying nothing is pending, yet he still wants to shop Wisniewski.

Overall, it sounds like we can turn that hot stove down to medium for now. Could we hear a different tone from Columbus as the March 2 trade deadline approaches, though?