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Help coming? Stralman returns for Lightning tonight

After their third loss in a row and fourth defeat in five games, Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brian Boyle said, “I’d love to play against us right now. It’s easy.”

With some injuries still irking them, it’s naive to say that one return will turn everything around, yet the Lightning have to be thrilled to get underrated defenseman Anton Stralman back in the lineup against the St. Louis Blues tonight.

That’s the word from head coach Jon Cooper to Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times.

During this three-game skid, the Lightning allowed 38 shots on goal twice and 30 once; they’ve given up at least 30 in their last seven games.

Could Stralman help stop some of the bleeding? Maybe.

Joel Vermin and Michael Bournival are also in the mix, with Andrei Vasilevskiy getting the start, according to Smith.

Sharks strengthen Pacific lead, end Kings’ streak at five


The NHL’s only substantial winning streak is over, as the San Jose Sharks ended the Los Angeles Kings’ run at five games.

In beating the Kings 4-1 on Wednesday, the Sharks now lead the Pacific Division by three points and are only three points behind the Blackhawks for the top spot in the West.

They’ve been on a very nice run of their own, winning five of six; their only loss during this span came via a 3-2 defeat to the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday.

“I feel we’re finding our stride,” Logan Couture said, according to CSN Bay Area’s Kevin Kurz. “Inconsistent at the start, but I think we’re playing some of our better hockey right now.”

The Sharks enjoyed a two-goal performance from Logan Couture alongside Ryan Carpenter’s first NHL tally and the second of Kevin Labanc‘s career.

Martin Jones was also sharp, though he had some help from the likes of Brent Burns:

The Sharks get to play three of their next four at home. After visiting the Coyotes in Arizona tomorrow, the Kings get a three-game homestand in Los Angeles, too.

For the time being, it looks like both teams are in a good situation to duke it out for Pacific Division positioning.

The Sharks clearly took the edge in that regard tonight.

Is there even any doubt Chad Johnson is the Flames’ guy?


The beauty of the Calgary Flames bringing in two goalies without long-term contracts is that they enjoy rare flexibility. That means being able to run with Chad Johnson, even if Brian Elliott‘s the guy with “All-Star” on his resume.

It’s probably reasonable to watch this situation, but at this point, it’s extremely difficult to deny that Johnson is the man for the Flames. At least right now.

Wednesday presented the latest exhibit, as Johnson stopped 39 Toronto Maple Leafs shots in a 3-0 win for Calgary.

With that, he now has three shutouts in November, matching some admittedly specific team history:

Maybe more importantly, head coach Glen Gulutzan acknowledges that Johnson bailed the Flames out more than once on Wednesday. This was the most exciting example:

Here’s the thing: with a career .918 save percentage, it’s possible that Johnson’s been worthy of a chance to be “the guy” for some time. In Elliott’s struggles, the Flames may have stumbled upon their brick wall.

Job-saver? Islanders beat Penguins after blowing lead


After tonight’s games, a lot of New York Islanders fans were probably doing the “wipe sweat off brow” hand motion. Jack Capuano probably didn’t need to fake it.

Things seemed like they were smooth sailing for the Isles against the Pittsburgh Penguins, as they opened up a 3-0 lead. Then, they watched in horror as the Penguins rattled off three goals during the third period. It looked like it would be a real nail-biter going into overtime.

Yet, 19:33 into the final frame, Anders Lee made it 4-3, with Nikolay Kulemin locking it down at 5-3 mere seconds later.

More than a few people wonder if those goals saved the Isles’ embattled head coach’s job.

After a terrible 2-5-4 run through most of November, the Islanders are now on a two-game winning streak. Following tomorrow’s trip to face the Capitals in D.C., they’ll enjoy five of six games in Brooklyn.

They’re only five points out of a wild card spot, which isn’t ideal … but it’s better than blowing a three-goal lead and possibly losing two points.

Did Anders Lee just become Capuano’s favorite player?

Dreger: NHLPA to reject CBA extension for Olympics; NHL game in China?

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NHL Insider Darren Dreger covered a variety of interesting topics on Wednesday, particularly when it came to growing the sport overseas.

As you can see around the four-minute mark of the video above, Dreger notes that the NHLPA is almost certain to reject the league’s bargain to extend the CBA by three years in order to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

(Dreger also notes that such discussions were possibly more informal than some might have believed.)

The players’ union is “perplexed” by the league’s reluctance to, in their view, grow the sport from a “global perspective” by participating in the upcoming PyeongChang 2018 Olympics.

Speaking of overseas opportunities, Dreger also notes that there could be an exhibition game between the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings in China before the 2017-18 season, though such an idea hasn’t been finalized.

Interestingly, Dreger points out that David Pastrnak* ranks among those being sponsored by China-based company O.R.G., another nod to that global growth.

On a night where the MLB locked down another CBA without a work stoppage, it’s interesting to see the NHL and NHLPA try to hammer out agreements like participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics. Consider this story “to be continued.”

* – Amusingly pictured in this post’s main image.