Posted on: March 17, 2011 4:25 am
Edited on: March 17, 2011 11:00 am

Morning Skate: NHL won't enter no-spin zone

You can understand why Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford immediately raised his stick in protest after Tampa Bay Lightning's Martin St. Louis did his twirl between the circles and scored on a shootout last week. 

"It was pretty close," Crawford told's Jesse Rogers . "It looked like maybe he stopped for a second and then kept going. They think they made the right decision so we just have to live with it."

A player can stop during the shootout as long as the puck keeps moving forward. USA TODAY’s Kevin Allen reports that NHL director of hockey operations Colin Campbell will attempt to clarify that rule. 

"The hard part is interpreting the puck stopping and it will be interpreted by video review," Campbell said. "When we first introduced shootouts the challenge was they were new and we had a number of questions to answer. This is one of the last lingering questions, what's acceptable and what is not."

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The Pittsburgh contingent is not a fan of the spin. 

"It's about entertainment, I understand that," Pittsburgh general manager Ray Sherosaid. "But when I see Pavel Datsyuk on the shootout, he is probably the most entertaining player I've seen, and he's never done a spinorama."

In a week where (baby) steps were taken to limit concussions, this seems like a minor matter to fiddle with -- especially since shootouts are limited to the regular season. But for those teams competing for the last few slots in each conference, that extra point means something this time of year. 

EXPANDED REVIEW: Some general managers on the final day of their meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., expressed interest for video review of double minor  high-sticking calls, according to The Canadian Press
"We've had situations where on video review it's the other player's stick and it's a hard call on the ice," said Colin Campbell, the NHL's senior vice-president and director of hockey operations. "We said we can live with it for 82 games, but in the playoffs that's a pretty big turnaround if you get the wrong call. The referees have supported us on that, they would like some help on that.

"That's our plea in hockey operations." It appears the biggest issue to be worked out is whether a video review would be triggered by referees, a coach's challenge or automatically with every double minor for high-sticking assessed.

Toronto 3, Carolina 1  
Detroit 3, Washington 2  
Vancouver 4, Colorado 2
Anaheim 2, St. Louis 1
Posted on: March 16, 2011 7:48 pm
Edited on: March 16, 2011 7:50 pm

Sharks' Dany Heatley suspended two games

San Jose Sharks winger Dany Heatley was suspended two games Wednesday, a day after he delivered an elbow to the head of Dallas Stars forward Steve Ott

The collision occurred with about four minutes left in regulation of the Sharks’ 6-3 victory on Tuesday. Ott passed the puck to center ice and was elbowed by Heatley soon thereafter. 

Heatley will forfeit $80,645.16 in salary as he sits out Thursday’s game against Minnesota and Saturday’s game against St. Louis. He's the second big-name Sharks forward suspended this season for such a hit. Sharks center Joe Thornton received a two-game ban in November after a collision with St. Louis Blues forward David Perron.

Posted on: March 16, 2011 3:29 pm
Edited on: March 16, 2011 3:30 pm

Playoff Watch: Canucks can clinch berth tongiht

WHO CAN CLINCH: The Vancouver Canucks will become the first team to clinch a playoff berth (via securing the Northwest Division title) by earning at least one point tonight against the Colorado Avalanche.

GAME OF THE NIGHT: Toronto Maple Leafs (30-30-10) at the Carolina Hurricanes (32-28-10), 7 pm ET.

The Maple Leafs could all but call off their bid to return to the postseason for the first time in since before the lockout with a loss tonight. Losers of four of their last five entering tonight’s contest at RBC Center, Toronto would slip to 12th in the Eastern Conference and fall to six points back of eighth-place Buffalo if they don't manage to secure at least a point. 

The Hurricanes are coming off 1-0 victory over the Sabres, Carolina’s first road win in a month, and could pull even with Buffalo (76 points) with a victory. (Buffalo would remain in eighth since it has a game in hand, thus a better winning percentage.) Cam Ward made 44 saves against the Sabres on Tuesday as he made Brandon Sutter’s goal late in the first period hold up.

ALTERNATIVE VIEWING: Washington Capitals (41-20-10) at Detroit Red Wings (41-20-8), 7:30 pm, Versus.

There are only four games on the schedule tonight, but Versus will broadcast what should be a high-powered contest against two of the best teams in NHL. The Caps enter on a nine-game winning streak and we’ll get to see two Russian buddies, Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk, go head to head.

GOLF WATCH: Edmonton Oilers have been mathematically eliminated. 


-- A.J. Perez

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: March 16, 2011 3:24 am

Morning Skate: Pacioretty returns to Bell Centre

Max Pacioretty walked into the same arena he left stretchered out on exactly seven days ago. 

For his Montreal Canadiens teammates -- many seated feet from where his head bound off the turnbuckle after a check from Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara -- it was a welcome sight. His visit to Bell Centre was brief and included a chat with the team doctor before he returned home to watch the game, a contest the Habs dropped, 4-2, as the Washington Capitals won their ninth game in a row.

"The fracture in his neck has to heal but he doesn't have concussion symptoms and that's the key part," said defenseman James Wisniewski told The Canadian Press. "We've seen guys miss a significant part of time this year with headaches and stuff like that so for him to get out here and come to a game it's important and really meant a lot." 

While Pacioretty appears to be ahead of schedule as he recovers from a severe concussion and a broken bone in his neck, the league’s general managers met for a second day in Florida to discuss head injuries among other topics. 

There wasn't a consensus on recommending a “zero-tolerance” rule for all head shots, not that the Pacioretty-Chara fit into that category anyway. That hit was one of growing number of concussions as result of coming into contact with the boards -- and it appears boarding and charging will be monitored more closely going forward. 

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“There were a number of instances of boarding and charging, which while legal under the current rules, may be the types of hits that we can take out of the game (and) keep the fundamental physicality of the game,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said on Tuesday.

The league, however, didn't say Chara was even guilty of boarding either. It remains just what the referee at the time called it: a five-minute major for interference and game misconduct. That’s it. 
“As I've said, we have (general) managers that have played in the '60s and '70s and managers who have come off the ice recently,” NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell said. “We have got a pretty good feel on that hit, and the direction and the feedback we . . . (got was there was) nothing we thought was wrong in the hit.”

Bettman added: “When we polled the managers, overwhelmingly they thought it was a hockey play and a bad, unfortunate, horrific accident”

But the padded stanchion Pacioretty's head hit, however, may be reexamined. 

“We feel that some of the things we are going to look at, the playing surface, the boards, the extensions, are things that we have to do,” Bettman said. “But the actions of the player involved there, we didn't feel there was anything wrong after we reviewed everything today.”

That probably did little to placate the Montreal fans still miffed that Chara skated, even if The Montreal Gazette reported the Facebook-inspired rally was largely a bust a bust.

New Jersey 4, Atlanta 2
Washington 4, Montreal 2
Boston 3, Columbus 2 (SO)
NY Rangers 6, NY Islanders 3
Carolina 1, Buffalo 0
Philadelphia 3, Florida 2
Pittsburgh 5, Ottawa 1
Los Angeles 4, Nashville 2
San Jose 6, Dallas 3
Phoenix 4, Calgary 3\

-A.J. Perez
Posted on: March 15, 2011 3:38 pm

Playoff Watch: 'Canes look to keep pace in East

Carolina Hurricanes (31-28-10) at Buffalo Sabres (34-27-8)

HSBC Arena, 7:30 p.m. ET (Versus) 

SERIES: Carolina (9th in East) 1-1-0; Buffalo (7th in East) 1-0-1
IMPLICATIONS: Carolina can move to within fourth place with a victory combined with a New York Rangers loss. (The Rangers host the New York Islanders tonight.) Buffalo won’t fall out of the top-8 no matter what happens tonight, but would slip to eighth with a loss coupled with a Rangers win. 

BREAKDOWN: The Sabres have netted points in each of their last four home games, but these are a couple crucial points up for grabs since the ‘Canes are one of a handful of teams with a shot for the final two playoff slots in the Eastern Conference. Counting tonight’s contest, the Sabres have 13 games with four of those against teams that enter 8th-10th in the standings (Carolina, 2 games, Rangers and Toronto). 

The Hurricanes, winless in their last four outings, are seeking their first road win since Feb. 13 and Carolina might not be able to count on their power play. Carolina hasn’t scored on their last 21 opportunities on the power play, a span of five games.  The Sabres, meanwhile, have allowed just one goal over their last 16 penalty kill opportunities. 

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Carolina F Jeff Skinner vs. Buffalo F Tyler Ennis. This is another chance to see a couple leading contenders for the Calder Trophy go head to head. Skinner scored his 24th goal of the season over the weekend, but it was only his second tally over the last 10 games as his production has slowed since he was featured attraction at the All-Star game in Raleigh. Skinner, however, still leads all rookies in scoring with 50 points. Ennis enters on a three-game point streak and is coming off a two-goal effort against Ottawa on Sunday.

KEY STAT: 126. The number of goals the Sabres are on pace to score over the second half of the season, which would be a 22-goal improvement over the first 41 games. 
Posted on: March 15, 2011 3:50 am
Edited on: March 15, 2011 3:52 am

Morning Skate: Should teams pay for head hits?

Possibly the most interesting of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s five suggestions to help curb the rise in concussions was penalizing teams and coaches who habitually run afoul of the league's supplementary discipline program.

“The notion is if there's a situation or a club where this seems to be out of the norm, something that continues to happen on a repeated basis, it should be addressed,” Bettman (above, right) told reporters at the GM meetings on Monday. 

We suggested yesterday that it should be called the “Trevor Gillies Rule” -- and that was before reported Mario Lemieux sent a letter to the league asking for a sliding scale. Here’s how Lemieux (above, left) would make the fine structure for teams: 
  • 1-2 games: $50,000 
  • 3-4 games: $100,000 
  • 5-8 games: $250,000 
  • 9-10 games: $500,000 
  • 11-15 games: $750,000 
  • More than 15 games: $1 million 

Gillies, an enforcer on the New York Islanders, received what the Penguins faithful felt was a lenient nine-game ban after a blindside hit to the head of Pittsburgh's Eric Tangradi on Feb. 11. In his first game back from suspension, he delivered a similar hit to Minnesota’s Cal Clutterbuck that resulted in a 10-game suspension. 

The Islanders were fined $100,000 for thier role in the brawl against the Pens, although Isles coach Jack Capuano was not sanctioned.

“While there have been 50-plus suspensions since the start of the 2009-10 season, the suspensions themselves don't seem to be deterring these illegal acts and tactics," wrote Lemieux. "And we've often seen repeat offenders. We think it is time that teams also are held accountable for the actions of their players. We propose instituting a policy of automatically fining a team when one if its players is suspended -- with the amount of the fine based on the length of the suspension. This should serve as a disincentive for teams as well as players to employ these kinds of tactics."

And, as the letter obtained by points out, the Pens would be on the hook for $600,000 had this been put in place before the season thanks to Matt Cooke (four games) and Eric Godard (10 games). 

It will also be interesting to see what will be addressed from an equipment standpoint. The league and the players union have agreed to putting soft caps on elbow and shoulder pads in recent seasons, doing away with the equipment that looked like it was suited more for an offensive lineman than a forward. 

Still, not much has evolved when it comes to the helmet. Few players are using the more advanced Cascade Messier Project helmet introduced a couple years ago and Mark Messier, who teamed with sister on the project, thinks he knows why. 

"I think (NHL players) look at it sometimes and feel that because we live in such a bravado world that if they're wearing that helmet you must have a fear ... that you're afraid," Messier told The Montreal Gazette

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He should know. For years he wore the old Jofa lid that was marketed as a broomball helmet with the warning “not for hockey use” when I began playing the sport.

To solve this concussion issue -- if that will ever truly happen -- there needs to be change of attitude on a few different levels. If you’re not going to listen to Bettman for whatever reason, it’s hard to ignore the suggestions from Hall of Famers such as Lemieux and Messier. 

Tampa Bay 6, Toronto 2 
Chicago 6, San Jose 3
Vancouver 4 Minnesota 2

-- A.J. Perez
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: March 14, 2011 4:39 pm
Edited on: March 14, 2011 4:55 pm

Chris Pronger to have surgery, out up to 4 weeks

Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger is scheduled to undergo surgery to repair a fracture in his right hand on Tuesday, a procedure that will likely keep him out of the lineup the rest of the regular season. 

"Chris had a CT scan on his right hand on Sunday and a small fracture was discovered,” Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said in a statement released by the team Monday afternoon. “Our doctors believe surgery is the best route to take with the injury. Surgery will be done Tuesday morning in Cleveland by Dr. Tom Graham. Chris will be able to return to play in 3-4 weeks."

Pronger hasn’t played since March 8 and had been listed day-to-day with an upper body injury. He has four goals, 21 assists and is a plus-7 this season. He leads the Flyers in average ice time (22 minutes, 29 seconds) and was a cog in last season’s run to the Stanley Cup Final. 

-- A.J Perez

Photo: Getty Images

Posted on: March 14, 2011 4:29 pm
Edited on: March 14, 2011 4:54 pm

Playoff Watch: Toronto nearing must-win territory

Tampa Bay Lightning (38-22-9) at Toronto Maple Leafs (30-29-10)

Air Canada Centre, 7 pm ET 

SERIES: Tampa 3-0-0; Toronto 0-2-1

IMPLICATIONS: Tampa can pull within a point of fourth-place Pittsburgh in the conference standings and to within three points of Southeast Division-leading Washington. Toronto can climb back within fourth points of eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings. 

BREAKDOWN: The Maple Leafs aren’t just looking to just avoid a season sweep by the Lightning. A victory is nearly a must to keep pace in the hyper-competitive East. There is currently one team (Carolina) between the Leafs and the eighth-place New York Rangers and there will only be a dozen games left on Toronto’s schedule after tonight. With the Atlanta Thrashers and a resurgent New Jersey Devils team on their tail, the Leafs might not to want to squander this home tilt.

Tampa has shut out the Toronto in each of the last two meetings and the Lightning have outscored the Leafs 10-3 overall this season. Martin St. Louis, Simon Gagne and Steven Stamkos each have two goals and an assist versus Toronto this season. The Lightning enter on a two-game skid. 

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Tampa Bay D Eric Brewer vs. Toronto D Dion Phaneuf. Brewer played more than 25 minutes in Saturday’s loss to Florida and he can expect a heavy workload again tonight. This is the final game the Lightning will be without defenseman Pavel Kubina, who was suspended three games for his hit to the head of Chicago’s Dave Bolland. Phaneuf, Toronto’s captain, logs nearly 25 minutes a game himself has thrown 161 shots on net, but only has four goals to show for it -- only two more than a season ago when he was limited to 26 games due to injury. 

KEY STAT: 26.4. The average age of Toronto’s roster, the third-youngest in the NHL. 

Photo: Getty Images
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or