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Posted on: March 14, 2011 3:26 pm
Edited on: March 14, 2011 3:35 pm
 

Video: Crosby talks after first practice in weeks

Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby talked to reporters after he practiced for about 15 minutes on Monday. He denies that he ever considered retirement, one of many rumors that have floated around since he was forced to shut it down due to a concussion on Jan. 5. 

Posted on: March 14, 2011 3:12 pm
Edited on: March 14, 2011 6:01 pm
 

Bettman introduces measures to curb concussions



NHL commissioner Gary Bettman introduced a five-step plan to reduce concussions on the first day of the league’s general managers meetings on Monday. 

"There's no one single thing that is causing concussions," Bettman said. "In fact, the trend as to why concussions happen is different than a lot of people are suggesting or speculating."

Here’s the proposal Bettman laid out in Boca Raton, Fla., to stem the league's vexing concussion problem: 
  • Brendan Shanahan, the former NHL player who now serves as NHL vice-president of hockey and business development, will work with manufacturers to improve equipment. One thought, Bettman said, is to make player equipment smaller.
  • The NHL, the first major North American sports with a concussion protocol, will revise its guidelines. If a player is thought to have a concussion, he must be removed from the bench and put in a quiet area where he’ll be assessed by a doctor, not just an athletic trainer. He will then be required to undergo the most recent Sport Concussion Assessment Tool. Here's a look at the SCAT2 protocol.
  • Coaches and the team will be penalized for players deemed to repeat offenders to rules that prohibit hits to the head. Call it the Trevor Gillies Rule. This will have to be approved by the Board of Governors, so it won't be in place until next season.
  • Safety engineers will conduct an inspection of each of the league’s 30 rinks to make sure they conform to new safety standards. This comes days after some experts pointed to the lack of sufficient padding on the divider Montreal’s Max Pacioretty collided with after a check form Boston’s Zdeno Chara.  The league will look at banning seamless glass currently in use at six rinks. 
  • The league will assemble a “blue ribbon panel” to continue studying concussions. The panel will include former NHL defenseman Rob Blake, Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman and Dallas GM Joe Nieuwendyk and will work with the competition committee to suggest new rules to protect players.


"We welcome these steps and look forward to discussing these and other issues with the NHL to provide a safer working environment for the players," National Hockey League Players’ AssociationExecutive Director Don Fehr said in a statement.

The general managers were shown a video breakdown of almost every concussion over the last two seasons along with statistical data, which revealed accidental concussions have nearly doubled from a season ago.

Bettman said 70 percent of concussions this season had accidental causes, like legal hits, teammates running into one another or players taking a puck off the head. Illegal hits accounted for 17 percent -- down nine percent from 2009-10 -- and fighting resulted in eight percent of concussions. The cause of the reaming concussions could not be determined. 

"This notion that the players have no respect for each other and they're going around hitting each other on the head on a regular basis and that's what's causing all the concussions just isn't accurate," Bettman said.

-- A.J. Perez

Photo: Getty Images

Posted on: March 14, 2011 2:38 am
Edited on: March 14, 2011 8:31 am
 

Morning Skate: Concussions again issue for GMs



The image of Pittsburgh Penguins agitator Matt Cooke’s brutal hit on Boston Bruins forward Marc Savard was still fresh in the minds in the league’s general managers when they met in Florida last March.

What resulted was Rule 48, language that banned blindside hits like the one Savard took days earlier and made violators subject to supplemental discipline. The rule was soon adopted by the competition committee and enforcement began days before the start of the playoffs.

It did nothing to protect Sidney Crosby or Max Pacioretty -- two players injured in incidents not covered by Rule 48 or any other guideline that put the players who injured them in peril of a fine or suspension. 

Crosby, out of the Penguins' lineup since Jan. 5 with concussion-like symptoms, took a shoulder to the head without the puck by David Steckel, who was then a member of the Washington Capitals.Montreal’s Pacioretty suffered a severe concussion and a broken bone in his neck when Boston’s Zdeno Chara sent him off a divider between the benches.

Pacioretty’s collision with the turnbuckle last week certainly was the scarier to watch of the two, but could either lead to more changes to the NHL rulebook when the three-day GM meetings begin today?

Line Changes

"If you listen to the media and read the papers north of the border, there's tremendous pressure to at least revisit it (the subject of reducing head injuries in the game)," Sabres general manager Darcy Regier told The Buffalo News. "I think we're going to have to do that."

The number of man games lost blindside hits dropped, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters at the All-Star game in January. But he said types of concussions through “accidental” collisions are on the rise.

"The ideal number of concussions would be zero," Bettman said. "Our objective would be to come as close as possible to get that result without changing the fundamentals of our game. We are doing whatever possible to limit the amount of concussions."

One option is to make any type of hit to a player’s head illegal, even if it’s accidental. While that wouldn’t pertain to Chara’s collision with Pacioretty, Montreal GM Pierre Gauthier might have a few ideas.

SUNDAY'S RESULTS
Washington 4, Chicago 3 (OT)
Pittsburgh 5, Edmonton 1
Los Angeles 3, Dallas 2 
Buffalo 6, Ottawa 4 
Phoenix 5, Anaheim, 2
CBSSports.com playoff tracker 

-- A.J. Perez

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: March 13, 2011 3:35 pm
Edited on: March 14, 2011 5:00 pm
 

Rick Martin, member of French Connection, dies




Rick Martin, a member of the Buffalo Sabres’ legendary French Connection line, died Sunday after apparently losing consciousness behind the wheel of his car. He was 59. 

"We lost a heck of a guy today," Sabres coach and Martin's former teammate Lindy Ruff said. "It's tough when you lose anybody, and we lost a real good person today. It's a tough one to take."

The Sabres announced Monday that a public memorial service will be held at HSBC Arena on March 24. 

Martin was driving in suburban Buffalo when his 2001 Buick Lacrosse sedan crossed the center line and eventually came to rest against a tree. Two passers-by and later a state trooper performed CPR on Martin as his German shepherd, the only other occupant of the car, stood alongside, New York State Police Capt. Steven Nigrelli said.

On Monday, authorities said an autopsy revealed Martin died of hypertensive heart disease, which is related to high blood pressure and clogged arteries.

News of Martin’s death spread as the Sabres were set to play the Ottawa Senators at HSBC Arena, where just a few weeks ago he joined his linemates French Connection linemates -- Rene Robert and Gilbert Perrault -- as the Sabres’ new owner, Terry Pegula, was introduced.  A video tribute of Martin ran before the game.

"It was great sadness and a heavy heart that we lost a member of the Sabre family today," longtime team broadcaster Rick Jeanneret said, as pictures of Martin were shown. "Rick Martin was a person of joy. You'll be missed `Rico,' but you will be remembered."

Martin was drafted fifth overall by Buffalo in 1971 and scored 41 goals during the 1971-72 season, a rookie record at the time. He spent 10-plus seasons in Buffalo before a severe knee injury against the Washington Capitals in November 1980 cut short his career. He was traded to the Los Angeles Kings, but would only play in four games with the club before retiring. 

Martin, a two-time 50-goal scorer, finished with 701 points (384 goals and 317 assists) in 685 career NHL games. He also had 24 goals and 29 assists for 53 points in 63 career playoff games. His 382 goals while with the Sabres ranks as the most by any Buffalo left winger. He also is tops in Sabres history in three-goal game (21), second in game-winning goals (77) and third in points (695). 

"He certainly made a lot of us laugh, didn't he?" said former defenseman Mike Robitaille, who played three years with Martin in Buffalo. "I don't know what we're doing being so emotional when what he stands for is to have fun and laugh. Man, we should have the biggest party in the world for Richard. ... A lot of good memories."

-- A.J. Perez

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: March 13, 2011 3:01 pm
Edited on: March 13, 2011 3:14 pm
 

Playoff Watch: Ducks can further tighten West


Phoenix Coyotes (35-23-11) at Anaheim Ducks (37-26-5) 


Honda Center, 8 pm ET

SERIES: Phoenix 2-3-0; Anaheim 3-2-0

IMPLICATIONS: The Coyotes, one of three teams  -- Angeles and Calgary are the others --  to enter Sunday night's action tied with 81 points in the West, could jump to fourth with a victory, depending how today's other games shake out. (Chicago also started the day with 81 points, but earned a point via an OT loss Washington in early action Sunday.) Anaheim could hop back into the top-8 with a victory. 

BREAKDOWN: The Ducks have 14 games left, eight against Pacific Division opponents counting tonight’s contest. (Eleven of those games are also against teams ahead of them in the conference standings. The Ducks are 19-9-1 since forward Ryan Getzlaf (out 14 games with a sinus injury) returned to the lineup on Dec. 28. Anaheim has made the run largely without No. 1 goalie Jonas Hiller, who has played only twice since the All-Star break due to vertigo. Dan Ellis is 5-1-1 with a 2.22 goals-against average since he was acquired before the trading deadline from Tampa Bay. Ray Emery is also up with the club and waiting for his first NHL start in 13 months. 

After a five-game skid, the Coyotes are 2-0-1 over the last three. Former Ducks goalie Ilya Bryzgalov in net. The Coyotes have been outshot in 41 of the last 69 games, so  Bryzgalov has a lot to do with the the Coyotes being in contention. Defenseman Keith Yandle, a Norris Trophy candidate, enters Sunday tied with Anaheim's Lubomir Visnovsky and Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom in scoring with 55 points. 

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Phoenix F Shane Doan vs. Anaheim F Corey Perry. Doan leads the Coyotes with seven points (two goals, five assists) in the first five meetings and he has 56 career points against Anaheim. Perry, who began the day tied for fifth in in the NHL in scoring (73 points), has 22 points over the last 16 games. 

KEY STAT: Plus-30. The plus-minus for Ducks defenseman Toni Lydman, tops in the NHL. 

-- A.J. Perez

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: March 12, 2011 4:03 pm
Edited on: March 12, 2011 4:12 pm
 

Playoff Watch: Leafs need to make a point (or 2)


Buffalo Sabres (33-26-8) at Toronto Maples Leafs (29-29-10) 


Air Canada Centre, 7 p.m. ET (NHL Network)
SERIES: Buffalo 3-1-0; Toronto 1-2-1

IMPLICATIONS: Buffalo, tied with the New York Rangers points-wise, can get a little breathing room in seventh with a victory. (The Rangers play San Jose tonight.) A victory in this division rivalry would be huge for the Leafs -- especially if it comes in regulation. Depending how things shake out, Toronto could finish the night two points out of eighth. 

BREAKDOWN: This is one three games that will change how the the bottom of the East looks heading into daylight savings time. 

The Leafs, 10-4-5 since the All-Star break, aren't in must-win territory, but they can't lose many of these tilts against teams in front of them in the standings. (They are already winless in their last three outings.) Much the the Leafs' recent success can directly be attributed to goalie James Reimer (above). He's been assigned to the  Toronto's AHL club on three occasions this season, but it's safe to say there won't be a fourth trip down to the Marlies. He enters 12-6-4 and one of his rare down games this rookie season came against Buffalo as he gave up five goals on 30 shots on Feb. 5.  He got the win the last time these two teams met (Feb. 19) in relief of Jean-Sebastien Giguere

This game will be the final game on the road on this current seven-game, 12-day trip for Buffalo. The Sabres are 4-1-1 so far and are coming off a 4-3 OT victory over Boston on Thursday. 

MATCHUP TO WATCH:  Buffalo F Thomas Vanek vs. Toronto F Phil Kessel. Vanek, who missed a game earlier this week with the flu, returned and had a goal and an assist against Boston. He leads the Sabres with 57 points (24 goals, 33 assists). Kessel, who has only one point over the last four games, leads all current Toronto players in goals (10) and points (14) in 30 games lifetime against Buffalo. 

KEY STAT: 4-10-4. The Leafs' record in Saturday games. 
Posted on: March 11, 2011 4:14 pm
 

President Obama hosts champion Blackhawks



President Obama hosted last season’s Stanley Cup champs Friday, minus a few players who have been dealt or otherwise left the Chicago Blackhawks

Obama, however, noted another absence: Patrick Kane’s playoff mullet. 

“I thought it was sharp,” Obama quipped

Team president John McDonough handed Obama, the nation’s 44th president, a No. 44 Blackhawks jersey. USA TODAY reported that Obama took a moment to note his hometown’s struggles when it comes to championships, which really is down to the Chicago Cubs now that the ‘Hawks ended their 49-year drought. 
"Waiting builds character," Obama said. "We have a lot of character" in Chicago.

Posted on: March 11, 2011 3:42 pm
Edited on: March 11, 2011 3:46 pm
 

Playoff Watch: ‘Canes look to solve Caps



Carolina Hurricanes (31-26-10) at Washington Capitals (38-20-10)

Verizon Center, 7 p.m. ET

SEASON SERIES: Carolina 0-3-1; Washington 4-0-0

IMPLICATIONS: Carolina would pull into a tie with Buffalo and the New York Rangers at 74 points with a win. (The ‘Canes would technically be in eighth place since they have a game in hand.) The Caps would move to within two points of the East lead as Philly has the night off. Conversely, a loss coupled with a Tampa Bay win Friday would knock them out of the division lead since the Lightning would have a game in hand and, thus, a better winning percentage.

BREAKDOWN: This would be a good time for the Hurricanes to get their first victory of the season against their Southeast Division rivals. Other than a 3-0 tilt on Oct. 27, these games have all been decided in Washington’s favor by a single goal. 

The Caps enter on a six-game winning streak and a victory would give them the longest string of wins on the season. Braden Holtby, who earned his first career shutout against Wednesday against the Oilers, will get the start in net for Washington.  The Washington Post’s Katie Carrera reports No. 1 goalie Michal Neuvirth is healthy, although left this morning’s optional skate early. The Caps will again be without first-line center Nicklas Backstrom, who won’t get the cast that protects his injured left thumb removed for a few days. 

Cam Ward will be back in the Carolina net tonight after a one-game break. He had started the previous 24 games in a row for Carolina. He is 13-7-4 with a 2.58 goals-against average and three shutouts lifetime against Washington. 

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Carolina center Eric Staal vs. Washington ceter Marcus Johansson. Staal, one away from reaching the 30-goal mark, has a point in four consecutive games. Johansson, a rookie, has stepped into the No. 1 line after Backstrom went out after the second period of Monday’s game. The 20-year-old gets to play with Alex Ovechkin on one of his wings, so that’s never a bad thing. 

KEY STAT: 41. Number of games out of 55 the Caps have won at least  half of their faceoffs. 

-- A.J. Perez

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 CBSSports.com