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Category:NHL
Posted on: March 22, 2011 3:30 am
 

Morning Skate: Bylsma deserves Jack Adams votes



Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma may have wrapped up the Jack Adams Award on Monday. 

There are plenty of deserving candidates for the NHL’s version of coach of the year. Alain Vigneault’s Vancouver Canucks were the first team to clinch a playoff berth and are likely to lay claim to the franchise’s first Presidents’ Trophy.  Jacques Lemaire was plucked out of retirement and led the New Jersey Devils from the basement to a chance at the postseason in few short months. Peter Laviolette has had the Philadelphia Flyers in first place in the East for most of the season. 

Still, Bylsma’s coaching effort can’t be overlooked. He’s lost Evegni Malkin for the season to a knee injury and his superstar center, Sidney Crosby, hasn’t played since the first week of January due to a concussion and his return this season remains a question mark. He’s also seen cogs like forwards Jordan Staal and Chris Kunitz along with defenseman Brooks Orpik miss time. 

The Pens entered play Monday night with 296 man games lost due to injury --- and that’s not counting the suspensions. The most recent was handed down before Monday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings as the league slapped forward Matt Cooke with a ban that extends through the rest of the regular season (10 games) and the first round of the playoffs.

Line Changes


Then the Penguins went on to beat the Red Wings, 5-4, in a shootout. While it’ll be a stretch for the Pens to overtake the Flyers in the Atlantic Division, the chance they could remain in fourth and host a first-round series is a feat all things considered. 

Bylsma shrugged off all the "woe is me" talk when he spoke to The Grand Rapids Press’ Michael Zuidema on Monday

“From within our room, we don’t feel like we’ve dealt with as much adversity as people outside our room think that we’ve dealt with,” he said. “We understand that there are injuries and I don’t think it’s a lot different than other teams. We’ve continued to focus on how we play and our execution level.”


GM Ray Shero and the Pens scouting staff deserves a nod brining in some help before the trading deadline. Forward James Neal and defenseman Matt Niskanen were acquired from the Dallas Stars for defenseman Alex Goligoski. Forward Alexei Kovalev was also brought back to Pittsburgh in exchange for a conditional draft pick with the Ottawa Senators

Bylsma, the easygoing former NHL player from Grand Haven, Mich., has made the pieces fit and that was recognized earlier this month with a three-year contract extension. Maybe he’ll get that Jack Adams Trophy -- an award voted on by the NHL Broadcasters Association -- to go next to the mementos from his 2009 Stanley Cup title run. 

MONDAY'S RESULTS
Pittsburgh 5, Detroit 4 (SO)
Los Angeles 2, Calgary 1 (SO)
-- A.J. Perez
Credit: Getty Images
Posted on: March 21, 2011 5:31 pm
Edited on: March 21, 2011 6:55 pm
 

Cooke suspended through first round of playoffs

Matt Cooke, the Pittsburgh Penguins' controversial forward, was suspended the rest of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs, the NHL announced Monday. 

 “Mr. Cooke, a repeat offender, directly and unnecessarily targeted the head of an opponent who was in an unsuspecting and vulnerable position," Colin Campbell, the NHL’s senior V.P. of hockey operations, announced in a statement. "This isn't the first time this season that we have had to address dangerous behavior on the ice by Mr. Cooke, and his conduct requires an appropriately harsh response." 

Cooke was given a five-minute major and game misconduct for elbowing New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh in the head ealry in the third period of Sunday’s game. (Here's a look at the replay.) This is the fifth time he’s been suspended during his career and second time this season, making him a repeat offender under the league’s collective bargaining agreement. 

Penguins GM Ray Shero -- who advocated for a zero-tolerance policy on head hits at the NHL's general manager meetings last week -- agreed with Campbell's punishment.

“The suspension is warranted because that’s exactly the kind of hit we’re trying to get out of the game," Shero said in a statement. "Head shots have no place in hockey. We’ve told Matt in no uncertain terms that this kind of action on the ice is unacceptable and cannot happen. Head shots must be dealt with severely, and the Pittsburgh Penguins support the NHL in sending this very strong message.”

Cooke will forfeit $219,512.20 in salary. The suspension, which could be as much as 17 games if Pens' first-round series is stretched to seven games, is the longest in franchise history. 

Detroit forward Henrik Zetterberg told reporters before Monday's game against the Penguins he'd like to have seen an outright ban for the rest of the season. 

"I think the suspensions he gets doesn't really bother him," Zetterberg told USA TODAY. "He keeps going out and doing that stuff."

The loss of Cooke compounds the Pens' lack of depth in the forward ranks. While Chris Kunitz recently returned from injury, Pittsburgh si still minus Sidney Crosby (out indefinitely with a concussion), Evgeni Malkin (out for season with a knee injury), Mike Comrie (hip) and Eric Tangradi (concussion).

"What puts us is a tough spot is when he misses games," Penguins forward Craig Adams told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "He's a great player, and people don't realize how good of a player he is; if you don't watch him play every night you don't know. We know."

Cooke has 12 goals, 18 assists and is a plus-14 this season. 
-- A.J .Perez

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: March 21, 2011 4:53 pm
Edited on: March 21, 2011 5:20 pm
 

Canucks' Manny Malhotra out for season

Vancouver Canuck forward Manny Malhotra will miss the rest of the season due to the eye injury he sustained in a game last week, the club announced Monday. 

“Following an initial procedure and continued treatment it has been determined through consultation with team doctors and specialists that Manny Malhotra will not return to the Canucks lineup for the remainder of this regular season and playoffs,” the Canucks said in a news release.

Malhotra, 30, was injured during Wednesday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche when a puck hit him in the left eye. He underwent surgery, but the Canucks have not released the specific injury Malhotra sustained. The team said in an email Monday that it would have no further comment. 

Malhotra, like his stops in Columbus and San Jose, was respected in the locker room in Vancouver. He’s a faceoff specialist and was one of the Canucks top penalty killers this season. He had 11 goals and 19 assists this season. 

-- A.J. Perez

Photo: Getty Images
Category: NHL
Posted on: March 21, 2011 4:24 pm
 

Pavelski atop bracket heap among NHLers

San Jose Sharks forward Joe Pavelski finished the first weekend of the NCAA men's basketball tournament in solid shape, leading the three other NHL players who particpated in CBSSports.com’s Bracket Challenge

Pavelski is seventh overall among the 35 celebrity brackets compiled. He got 33 games correct out of a possible 48 and enters the Sweet 16 with 43 points. All of his Final Four teams -- North Carolina, Duke, Kansas and Florida -- remain in contention. 

That's not a bad start for Paveklski, who also tapped as one of the NHL's three Stars of the week on Monday.

Teammate Dany Heatley and Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller are tied in 16th (39 points), Columbus Blue Jackets winger R.J. Umberger is 34th (37 points.), just ahead of last-place Special K Daley of the Harlem Globetrotters.

Overall, President Obama leads with 49 points, predicting 39 games correctly. 
-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: March 21, 2011 2:22 pm
Edited on: March 21, 2011 2:24 pm
 

Playoff Watch: Hobbled Wings, Pens renew rivalry

WHO CAN CLINCH: No new teams can secure a playoff berth today. 

ALREADY IN: Vancouver Canucks and Philadelphia Flyers

GAME OF THE NIGHT: Pittsburgh Penguins (41-23-8) at Detroit Red Wings (43-21-8), 7:30 p.m. ET

The combatants in two of the last three Stanley Cup Finals highlight a limited slate of games tonight. 
The Red Wings Wings begin a five-game homestand. (Seven of Detroit's final 10 regular season games are at Joe Louis Arena.) The Wings have an eight-point lead on the Chicago Blackhawks, who Detroit faces three times down the stretch. Forwards Pavel Datsyuk (lower body), Johan Franzen (groin) and Jiri Hudler (upper body) are likely to miss tonight's game, according to Ansar Khan of mlive.com. That could make winning 10 in a row against Eastern Conference opponents a little more difficult. 

The Pens have well-chronicled injury problems of their own with forwards Sidney Crosby (concussion) and Evgeni Malkin (out for season with knee injury), along with defenseman Brooks Orpik (finger) out. Forward Chris Kunitz, out 13 games with a lower-body injury, has been solid in the five games since he returned the lineup. Over the last three games, he has six points (three goals, three assists.) 

ALTERNATIVE VIEWING: Calgary Flames (37-27-10) at Los Angeles (40-26-6), 10:30 p.m. ET

This game is the only other game on the schedule, so it's not quite a tough call. Calgary comes to Staples Center a day after dropping a heart-breaker in Anaheim. The Flames overcame a three-goal deficit and even held a lead late in the third period before Teemu Selanne tied the game and Corey Perry gave the Ducks a 5-4 victory in overtime. The Kings enter the night in sixth place, two points ahead of the Flames. 

GOLF WATCH: The Colorado Avalanche and Edmonton Oilers won't get any new company tonight. 
Posted on: March 21, 2011 1:35 pm
Edited on: March 24, 2011 1:29 am
 

Injury sidelines Caps' Ovechkin 7-10 days

ARLINGTON, Va. --- Words like “nagging injury,” “aches and pains” and “maintenance” were tossed around the practice rink to explain why Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin' will miss seven to 10 days.

Then Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau was asked if Tuesday's game against the Philadelphia Flyers was a playoff contest -- not just one of 82 regular season games -- if his captain would play.

“Probably not,” Boudreau told reporters on Monday. 

The official word is that Ovechkin is sore. Not upper body. Not lower body. Just sore. 

“He's had some nagging injuries for a while now,” Boudreau said. “We only have one game in six days, so we thought this would be the best time to get him completely healed up.”

Ovechkin collided knee-on-knee with Detroit's Darren Helm last week and Ovechkin is also thought to have some sort of hand injury, but Boudreau refused to go into specifics. 

“He hasn't practiced with the team in a while,” Boudreau said. “He wants to feel better. He doesn't like waking up every moning and feeling like he's got to go through an hour of (treatment) to get ready for practice. He wants to play. The playoffs are important to him.”

Ovechkin has been a fairly sturdy player through the first six years of his career, including the last couple seasons where he's missed about as many games due to suspension and injury. 

But injury is just theory for his lack of production this season. Even before it was announced he'd be out of the lineup, Ovechkin was already on pace for career lows in goals. He has 29 goals and 48 assists this season, although he has seen a spurt in production of late. 

“I don't know what's wrong with him,” linemate Mike Knuble said. “Like anybody else, he's banged up a little bit. You never know the severity of it. . . . It's nothing season-ending by any means.”

The Caps were already without forwards Eric Fehr (shoulder) and Jason Arnott (undisclosed injury) along with defenseman Mike Green (concussion). Boudreau said Fehr is questionable for Tuesday. Arnott skated on his own before practice began and Boudreau said “he felt good,” but gave no indication when ether Arnott or Green would return. 

Washington just got center Nicklas Backstrom back Friday from a thumb injury that kept him out five games. 
-- A.J. Perez
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: March 21, 2011 1:47 am
Edited on: March 21, 2011 1:00 pm
 

Morning Skate: How long should Matt Cooke sit?



Zero? Eight? The 10 remaining games the Pittsburgh Penguins have left in the regular season and the playoffs? 

Exactly how long Pens forward Matt Cooke will be suspended for his elbow to the head of New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh Sunday afternoon overshadowed a solid day of hockey as all six games on the slate had some sort of playoff implications. Here's a look at the hit  in case you missed it. 

Cooke, the third rail that he is, will do that to a news cycle. 

A look at his checkered past -- which goes well beyond the fact he’s only been forced to sit 10 games during his career -- and there’s no way Cooke can be considered a victim. Still, he picked the worst time in league history to blindside a player, even though McDonagh remained in the game. Cooke received an elbowing major and a game misconduct for the third-period hit. 

Pens GM Ray Shero is just a few days removed from advocating a ban on all head hits  -- including hits similar to the check that has kept Pittsburgh superstar Sidney Crosby out for more than two months with a concussion -- at the league's general managers meeting. Majority owner Mario Lemieux even offered up a tiered fine system for teams whose players are suspended by the league. 

That fact it occurred on national TV where NBC analysts Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire labeled the hit as dirty doesn’t help either. 

Line Changes

"I don't think you can talk about eliminating headshots as an organization and not expect that to be examined," coach Dan Bylsma told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review . "It looks to be contact right to the head. The league will look at that at treat it as such."

The Pens will likely soon get the ”clear and strong message” Lemieux wrote was lacking from the league after the NHL’s  response to last month’s fiasco between his team and the New York Islanders

If just about any other player -- maybe outside of maybe New York Islanders enforcer Trevor Gillies --  delivered the hit, this wouldn’t have lit up Facebook and Twitter like it did. The perceived hypocrisy for a team advocating for more stringent rules governing head hits despite continuing to employ Cooke was just too much for fans and pundits alike not seize upon. 

Here’s a quick roundup of opinions:

Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal :  
If this isn’t a suspension for the rest of the season, then the NHL’s Lord of Discipline, Colin Campbell, is really going soft. Maybe the real message for Cooke, though, would also be a detention for the playoffs, when the games really matter — when Cooke will hurt not only himself but his teammates by his absence in a lineup that is already short-staffed.

TSN’s Darren Dreger :
With the red-alert sensitivity to head hits, especially illegal head hits like the one that earned Cooke a major and game misconduct, it's conceivable the Penguins veteran, a repeat offender with a reputation for delivering cheapshots, could earn a 10-game suspension or more. That's based on league-wide reaction. 


Former NHL player Jeremy Roenick :

“I feel bad for Mario. He stuck his neck on the line to clean up dirty plays and his own player again puts him in a tough situation.”


Alec Schall, agent for injured Montreal Canadiens player Max Pacioretty

“Should NHL rules protect players like Cooke or Crosby? I say let's protect (Cosby) and when we want flying elbows to the head we can watch MMA.”


 Mike Brophy of Rogers Sportsnet :

The eyes of the hockey world will be on the NHL's hockey operations department to see how it handles the latest Cooke catastrophe. Anything shy of a major suspension (minimum 10 games) will not be met with support.

“I didn’t see him coming,” McDonagh said of Cooke. “I had no idea. I know it hurt, that’s for sure.”

I don't think you can talk about eliminating headshots as an organization and not expect that to be examined," coach Dan Bylsma said. "It looks to be contact right to the head. The league will look at that at treat it as such.

SUNDAY'S RESULTS

NY Rangers 5, Pittsburgh 2  
New Jersey 3, Columbus 0  
Nashville 4, Buffalo3 (OT)  
Montreal 8, Minnesota 1
Anaheim 5, Calgary 4 (OT)  
Chicago 2, Phoenix 1  

-- A.J. Perez
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: March 20, 2011 3:05 pm
Edited on: March 20, 2011 3:24 pm
 

Pens' Matt Cooke ejected after (another) elbow

No new rules for headshots are needed to punish Pittsburgh Penguins agitator Matt Cooke

Cooke skated across the ice five minutes into the third period Sunday and delivered an elbow to the head of unsuspecting New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh. Cooke was immediately given an elbowing major and sent to the locker room with a game misconduct. McDonagh remained in the game as the Rangers took control during the five-minute penalty en route to a 5-2 victory. 

Here's a look at the video courtesy of a link provided by SB Nation



Cooke is the player most responsible for Rule 48's existence in the first place. The rule that bans blindside hits to the head of an opponent was created late last season weeks after Cooke's brutal hit on Boston's Marc Savard -- a hit that resulted in a concussion to Savard but was not illegal at the time. 

This sort of thing doesn't look good for the Pens, who have led the crusade for more stringent rules governing head hits at last week's GM meetings in Boca Raton, Fla. The team has been without superstar center Sidney Crosby since early January with a concussion and Pittsburgh's majority owner Mario Lemieux proposed fining teams for players running afoul of the league's supplementary discipline system. 

Such arguments ring hollow when Matt Cooke goes Matt Cooke upside another player's head. 

Cooke was suspended four games after he sent Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Fedor Tyutin headfirst into the boards last month. Since he's a repeat offender under league rules, this suspension could be much harsher. 

-- A.J. Perez
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com