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  • NHL Three Stars: Hammond robs Kings; Subban pads Habs' conference lead

    No. 1 Star: Andrew Hammond, Ottawa Senators

    The White Rock, British Columbia native picked up his second shutout this season to improve to 4-0-0 on the year. In his four starts he has only allowed three goals for the injury depleted Senators. He stopped 35 of 35 Los Angeles shots on goal to break LA’s eight-game winning streak in a 1-0 win.

    No. 2 Star: P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens

    Scored one goal and notched two assists in a 5-2 win over Columbus. Subban was also a plus-5. He now has points in seven of his last eight games including five points (one goal and four assists) in his last two contests. Montreal has the best record in the Eastern Conference with 85 points. 

    No. 3. Star: Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild

    Made 27 saves on 29 Predators shots on goal in his 19th straight start. The loss for Nashville was just its fourth in regulation at home all year. The victory for Minnesota pushed the Wild into the final Wild Card playoff spot in the Western Conference. 

    Honorable Mention: Rangers forward Lee Stempniak scored two goals in a 4-3 win over the Arizona Coyotes … teammate Chris Kreider also notched two scores …  Arizona forward Sam Gagner scored two goals in the loss … Chicago’s Teuvo Teravainen scored a goal in a 3-0 win over the Florida Panthers. The victory for Chicago was its first since forward Patrick Kane was injured. Teammate Marian Hossa notched two assists and goaltender Corey Crawford stopped all 20 Florida shots on goal … Toronto forward Tyler Bozak scored a goal and added an assist in a 3-2 win over the Flyers ... Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier stopped 47 of 49 Flyers shots on goal in the win … Buffalo forward Brian Gionta scored one goal and added two assists and was a plus-4 in a 6-3 win over Vancouver. Teammate Torrey Mitchell scored two goals and was a plus-4 … Blues forward Patrik Berglund scored a goal … Jets forward Mark Scheifle also scored a goal … Montreal’s Andrei Markov scored a goal, added an assist and was a plus-5 … Minnesota’s Kyle Brodziak scored a goal and added an assist in a win over Nashville as did forward Erik Haula … Nashville forward Matt Cullen picked up two assists in the loss to the Wild … St. Louis goaltender Brian Elliott stopped 30 of 31 Winnipeg shots on goal in a 2-1 shootout win over the Jets … Blues forward Patrik Berglund scored a goal … Jets forward Mark Scheifle also scored a goal … Jets goaltender Michael Hutchinson stopped 28 of 29 Blues shots on goal … Luke Glendening scored the game-winner with 1:15 let to give Detroit a 3-2 win over San Jose. Sharks forward Patrick Marleau scored a goal … Matt Irwin also put one in the net for the Sharks … Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk scored a goal and has sick hands.

    Did You Know?: Max Pacioretty is the third Canadiens’ player in the last 20 years with back-to-back 30 goal seasons. 

    Dishonorable Mention: Arizona goaltender Mike Smith allowed four goals on 38 shots on goal … Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov was a minus-3 … Philadelphia fired 49 shots on goal at Toronto and still lost … Columbus defenseman James Wisniewski was also a minus-3 as was teammate Scott Hartnell … Vancouver’s Eddie Lack allowed five goals on 23 Buffalo shots on goal … Columbus goaltender Curtis McElhinney allowed four goals on 26 Montreal shots on goal … San Jose blew a one-goal third period lead and lost to Detroit in regulation.

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  • Wild finds system stability with stronger goaltending

    NASHVILLE – Devan Dubnyk wanted to have the greatest start in the history of great starts almost a year ago.

    On Jan. 18, 2014 he jumped into goal for the Nashville Predators after a mid-season trade with Edmonton for Matt Hendricks. Nashville needed a goalie with Pekka Rinne out with a hip infection. Dubnyk was tall, he was quick. Pair him with then Nashville goaltending guru Mitch Korn, and it was a perfect fit.

    “That first game against Colorado here, I was all pumped up and wanted to go out and do backflips and do all this stuff,” Dubnyk said.

    Then Nick Holden scored 6:21 into the game. Jan Hejda made 2-0 at the 11:27 mark. Gabriel Landeskog pushed it to 3-0 at the 12:05 marker.

    Such began the stretch of nine goals allowed in two games for Dubnyk, his only two contests with Nashville. Eventually he was dealt to the Montreal Canadiens, essentially for nothing. But that experience has helped him realize that when you’re playing for a good team, you don’t have to be a savior in goal. Just a good enough player to let the guys do their work.

    “When you make a picture that big and put that much pressure on something, it doesn’t allow you to be successful,” Dubnyk said.

    Has his move to the Wild in a January trade from Arizona made Minnesota an incredibly better team? Sure. When your goaltending improves it makes everyone look more solid. Minnesota says it hasn’t changed its systems or its style. But knowing the guy in net is going to make a save and not allow a softy certainly helps.

    “I think some of it is confidence. I think some of it is trust and trust that you can just go out and do your job and with that understanding that if there is a breakdown or something happens you have somebody there to take care of it,” coach Mike Yeo said.

    Thursday night at Nashville, Dubnyk is about to hit his 19th straight start. During that span, both he (and the Wild) have gone 13-3-1. Dubnyk has a 1.66 goals against average and a .935 save percentage. His play has spearheaded a Wild revival. Minnesota has 69 points, just one behind Calgary for the final Wild Card spot. The Wild has one game in hand.

     By comparison, the Wild’s best possible other option is Darcy Kuemper who has a 2.62 goals against average and .904 save percentage. 

    “You can’t play a perfect game in this league,” Yeo said. “You’re going to give up chances and I think when we give up shots from the outside he does a good job of controlling those rebounds and when there is a scoring chance he’s a good first save goalie.”

    This is all true, but ask the players, and in some ways Dubnyk’s arrival coincided with the team hitting rock bottom. There was only one way to go – and it was up. Did Dubnyk’s inspired play propel the Wild to where it is now? Or was it more just an eventual rebound by a team that was almost too talented to continue its downward spiral? 

    “Our game was a mess,” forward Zach Parise said. “We just really stopped competing. It was bad. When he came in, we got a little stability between the pipes and I think our record since he has come has spoken for itself. Slowly we’ve been able to build up to get back to playing some pretty good hockey.”

    But that’s all it has been. Same old same old for the Wild. Dubnyk didn’t reinvent its proverbial wheel. As Parise points out, he had arguably the best goaltender of all time in Martin Brodeur when he played in New Jersey. And the system stayed the same.

    “We still played the trap and slowed the game down,” Parise said. “You don’t change based on who is in the net.” 

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    Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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