Posted on: March 4, 2011 3:40 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2011 3:56 pm

Surprise: Trevor Gillies gets 10-game suspension

New York Islanders enforcer Trevor Gillies was suspended 10 games for a headshot delivered to Minnesota Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck, the NHL announced Friday afternoon. 

“By targeting his opponent's head, three shifts into his first game back from a suspension for a very similar action, Mr. Gillies has forfeited his privilege of playing in the League for 10 games,” said Colin Campbell, the NHL's senior executive vice president of hockey operations, in a statement. “While it is fortunate there was no injury on the play, there can be no justification for a player delivering a dangerous check to an opponent in this manner."

The incident occurred Wednesday in Gillies' first game back from a nine-game suspension for a blindside hit to the head of Pittsburgh's Eric Tangradi on Feb. 11. Unlike Tangradi who had to be helped off the ice, Clutterbuck remained in the gamne. 

Either way, Gillies was considered a repeat offender by the league. 

Gillies met with NHL officials in Toronto on Friday, a sign that he was in store for a lengthy penalty. In the 33 games that he has played in this season, the 32-year-old winger has 124 penalty minutes and one point. As New York Times SlapShot blogger Chris Botta points out, Gillies has played less than four minutes over his last two games and has been suspended a total of 19 games. 

Gillies will forfeit it $60,975.60 in salary and will be eligible to return March 26 for a game against the Flyers

With players like Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby on the shelf for long periods of time with concussion-like symptoms and the revelation this week that late NHL enforcer Bob Probert had signs of a degenerative brain disorder, a double-digit suspension was likely an easy call for the NHL.

Posted on: March 4, 2011 2:51 am
Edited on: March 4, 2011 3:10 am

Morning skate: Is this finally San Jose's year?

The San Jose Sharks, winners of the Western Conference the last two seasons, didn't look like they'd contend for much more than a low playoff seed, if that, just a few weeks back. 

Then Antti Niemi, the goalie the Sharks acquired from the Stanley Cup champ Chicago Blackhawks last offseason, took over. The Sharks have won 17 of the last 20 games -- all with Niemi in net -- including Thursday's 3-1 victory over Detroit Red Wings at HP Pavilion. Niemi (above) made 26 saves in his latest win.

The Sharks have won eight in a row, are tops in the Pacific Division and now sit three points behind the Red Wings in the Western Conference. (Here's a look at our playoff tracker.) 

The Sharks have integrated defensemen Ben Eager (acquired in from the Atlanta in January) and Ian White (acquired from Carolina last month) and are relatively healthy, minus defenseman Dan Boyle (upper-body injury) and goalie Antero Niittymaki (groin). Both are expected to return soon. The taht has a solid stable of forwards -- including Dany Heatley, who had a two-goal effort on Thursday -- and a capable defense. 

For a team that was a trendy pick for the few seasons to win it all, could this be the season where the Sharks advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history? Maybe even win it all?

Or, are the Sharks just teasing us again?

A PLEA IN PHOENIX: After about two years, the Phoenix Coyotes ownership saga could be coming to an end. That's if a citizen watchdog group drops it objections over how the City of Glendale is helping finance the transaction via a sale to of $116 million in bonds.'s Matt Swartz reports the Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs and Greater Phoenix Economic Council leader Barry Broome spoke at a news conference on Thursday where they urged the Goldwater Institute not to follow through their threat of a lawsuit, which could prevent investor Matthew Hulsizer from taking over the team. Hulsizer said he intends to keep the team at Arena, although any more delays ups the chances that the league-controlled franchise that once called Winnipeg home could be headed back north of the border. 

GILLIES HEARING TODAY: New York Islanders enforcer Trevor Gillies is scheduled to meet with NHL officials in Toronto this afternoon to discuss Wednesday's blindside hit of Cal Clutterbuck of the Minnesota Wild. (Link to hit here.) reports that such in-person meetings usually mean a suspension of five or more games is on the horizon. Gillies had just returned from a nine-game suspension for a blow to the head delivered to Pittsburgh's Eric Tangradi on Feb. 11. Because of that, Gillies will be treated as a repeat offender. 

LINE CHANGES: Jason Arnott has acclimated himself pretty well in Washington. His slapshot late in the third period led the Capitals past the visiting St. Louis Blues, 3-2. That makes it one game-winning goal and a primary assist on a game-tying tally in Tuesday's victory over the Islanders since he arrived from New Jersey. . . . Philadelphia forward Kris Versteeg scored twice against his former club, but the Maples Leafs rookie goalie James Reimer made a key glove save in the closing seconds to preserve a 3-2 victory. The Leafs, who dealt Versteeg before the deadline for a first-and third-round picks, moved two within three points of eighth place in the East. . . .  The Buffalo Sabers, unable to score on a power play late in regulation, failed in thier bid to move into eighth place in the East, as Carolina won, 3-2, in OT. 
Photo: US Presswire

Posted on: March 4, 2011 1:00 am
Edited on: March 4, 2011 1:14 pm

Taylor Hall injured in first NHL fight

Edmonton Oilers rookie forward Taylor Hall may have picked the wrong combatant for his first NHL fight. 

The first overall selection last summer's NHL Entry Draft was tossed around like a rag doll by Columbus Blue Jackets tough guy Derek Dorsett in the second period bout. At the end of the one-sided affair, Hall landed awkwardly and apparently injured his left ankle, The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson reports.

There was no immediate word on how badly he was hurt but it didn’t look good as he limped to the dressing room. His night was over 33 minutes into the hugely entertaining affair with the Oilers driving Jackets’ starting goalie Steve Mason to the bench with three goals in their first 14 shots.

Hall told reporters afterward that he "tweaked" the ankle and he'd see how it feels Friday.  

While Hall didn't return the Oilers -- who are also minus forward Ales Hemsky (shoulder) for a few weeks -- still managed to chase Blue Jackets goalie Steve Mason en route to a 4-2 victory. 

Hall told Matheson ealier in the day that he had been in a couple scraps in juniors and added that he wasn't sure if was ready to for any NHL fisticuffs. 

He may have been right. 

UPDATE:'s Mark Spector reports that Hall won't be joining the Oilers for at least the start of the team's five-game trip. He has an MRI scheduled for later Friday.

Posted on: March 3, 2011 3:15 pm
Edited on: March 3, 2011 3:18 pm

Playoff watch: Sabres making their move

Buffalo Sabres (30-25-7) at Carolina Hurricanes (30-25-9)
RBC Center, 7 pm ET
Buffalo: 9th in East, 67 points (5-3-2 in last 10 games)
Carolina: 8th in East, 69 points (4-4-2 in last 10 games)
Season series: Buffalo def. Carolina, 3-2, in first meeting on Jan 13. 

BREAKDOWN: A Buffalo Sabres win puts them in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, at least for one night. (Buffalo would get the edge in the standings since it has two games in hand. Click here for our rundown of the playoff chase, along with the league’s tiebreaking procedures.) Sabres goalie Ryan Miller probably hasn’t been this much on his game since he led Team USA to silver at the 2010 Winter Games. He hasn’t allowed more than two goals in regulation over his last five starts, including Tuesday’s 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers. Without him, the Sabres, who were in 12th place and 10 points out of playoff spot at the end of December, wouldn’t be here. 

Carolina has some room to advance up the standings as well. A victory and a Rangers loss would put them into seventh place. Cory Stillman has two goals and an assist in his return to the Carolina via trade with the Florida Panther on Feb. 24. Goalie Cam Ward is expected to make his 24th consecutive start. Jeff Skinner, one of the contenders for the Calder Trophy, hasn’t scored a goal over the last five games, although he still leads all rookies in points (47).
Posted on: March 3, 2011 1:20 pm
Edited on: March 3, 2011 2:10 pm

Blackhawks visit to White House set

President Obama will honor the hockey team from his old stomping grounds, the reigning Stanley Cup champ Chicago Blackhawks, at a White House ceremony March 11, the league announced on Thursday.

Members of the this year’s club -- including captain Jonathan Toews (above) -- will be in attendance along with team owner Rocky Wirtz, GM Stan Bowman and coach Joel Quenneville. That leaves a good portion of the 2009-10 club responsible for the team’s title run -- Dustin Byfuglien (Atlanta), Antti Niemi (San Jose), Kris Versteeg (Philadelphia) and Andrew Ladd (Atlanta) -- possibly out of the fold. Chicago Trbune reporter Chris Kuc reports all members from last year's team are invited, but it will be up to their current teams whether they'd be cleared to attend. 

As part of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let’s Move! campaign, members of the Blackhawk and the Washington Capitals will help conduct a clinic on a street hockey rink set up on the South Lawn. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and USA Hockey Executive Director Dave Ogrean are schedule to preside over that part of the festivities. 

The Blackhawks will be in town to play the Caps on March 13, a game that will be broadcast on NBC 12:30 pm ET. 

Photo: Gettty Images
Posted on: March 3, 2011 8:33 am

Bob Probert's worries proved justified

It was Bob Probert’s heart, not his brain, that struck down the former NHL enforcer at age 45 last July. 

Probert, however, knew the 16 seasons of pounding he absorbed as one of the league’s foremost pugilists as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings had taken a toll. Before he died of a massive heart attack, Probert asked family members to forward his brain to researchers known best for studying concussions in football players. 
Probert’s suspicions proved correct, according Thursday's The New York Times
After examining Probert’s brain tissue, researchers at Boston University said this week that they found the same degenerative disease, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, whose presence in more than 20 deceased professional football players has prompted the National Football League to change some rules and policies in an effort to limit dangerous head impacts.

Researchers at Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy previously found CTE in Reggie Fleming, a former NHL enforcer who died in 2009 at 73.  
“How much is the hockey and how much is the fighting, we don’t really know,” said Dr. Robert Cantu, co-director of the Boston University center and a prominent neurosurgeon in the area of head trauma in sports. “We haven’t definitely established that the skills of hockey as a sport lead to a certain percentage of participants developing CTE. But it can happen to hockey players, and while they’re still relatively young.”

Don Fehr, the executive director of the NHL Players’ Association, told the newspaper the revelation that Probert had signs of CTE “raises concerns and it bears serious examination” of the sport's safety. 

Hits to the head -- from blindside collisions more than fighting -- have been an issue the league has attempted to remedy over the last couple seasons. The league and the NHLPA agreed to add Rule 48 that made such hits illegal late last regular season and the rule was toughened in the offseason to include in-game penalties, like the major penalty and game misconduct given to New York Islanders enforcer Trevor Gillies on Wednesday night for his hit on Minnesota Cal Clutterbuck

The league’s most famous player , Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, has not played since Jan. 5 as he battles concussion-like symptoms. Pens coach Dan Bylsma told reporters Crosby’s return could take another month or he may not return until the summer. 

Like the NFL, there are no easy answers for a tough-guy sport like hockey. More penalties could help, but Gillies was coming off a nine-game suspension on Wednesday for the exact same kind of hit. 

Softer pads, better helmets and more respect wouldn’t hurt either. 

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: March 3, 2011 1:42 am
Edited on: March 3, 2011 2:08 am

Morning skate: Flames lose game, maybe Morrison

The Calgary Flames may have lost more than a crucial couple points when they fell to the Chicago Blackhawks, 6-4, at the United Center on Wednesday. 

First-line center Brendan Morrison skated gingerly off the ice in the third period and did not return.’s Dan Rosen reports that Flames coach Brent Sutter didn’t specify or how bad it might be. 

The victory by the Blackhawks -- their season-best sixth in a row -- moved the defendding Stanley Cup champs to fourth in the West.

Nine of the 10 teams in action Wednesday have at least a fathomable  shot at the postseason and the only one that didn't (the New York Islanders) played the role of spoilers. Here’s our playoff race tracker

GILLIES WASTES NO TIME: In his first game back from a nine-game suspension, New York Islanders forward Trevor Gillies went a little more than a period before he repeated the offense. Gillies blindsided Minnesota Wild winger Cal Clutterbuck, whose head hit the glass after the collision. (Clutterbuck had just hit Islanders rookie Justin DiBenedetto, which drew a penalty as well.) Gillies was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct. Clutterbuck got back up and was in the lineup as the Wild fell, 4-1. Chris Botta of The New York Time’s Slap Shot blog gives a full rundown with video

PARISE ON THE MEND: New Jersey Devils winger Zach Parise was cleared to skate on Wednesday, three months after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. “He can begin skating lightly immediately,” Devils GM Lou Lamoriello said in a story on the team’s website. Parise has been out 51 games since hurting his knee Oct. 30. Rich Chere of The Star-Ledger reports that Parise would need a minimum of two more weeks of rehab before he can practice with the team, although there’s still a decent chance he could return by the end of the season. New Jersey edged the Tampa Bay Lightning, 2-1, to keep the Devils’ slim playoffs hopes alive. 

LINE CHAGES: The Toronto Maple Leafs unlikely run for a playoff spot continued with a 3-2 OT victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Mikhail Grabovski scored 42 seconds into the extra frame as the Leafs moved to within two points of the Carolina Hurricanes, who tenuously hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.  .  . . Bobby Ryan’s goal via penalty shot in overtime hoisted the Anaheim Ducks to a 2-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. Ryan was hauled down by Detroit defenseman Ruslan Salei just as he reached the net, resulting in the ref pointing to center ice. Here a link to the video
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: March 2, 2011 5:52 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2011 8:53 pm

Professor: NHL players take "aggressive posture"


NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman encouraged reporters before the NHL All-Star Game not to read a ton into the fact the league’s players recently tapped Don Fehr as their union head. 

"With respect to the NHLPA, I can tell you I am glad that there's an executive director and I look forward to building a relationship with Donald Fehr," Bettman said minutes before the exhibition in January. "We certainly will have lots to discuss. But collective bargaining is a year and a half away. We've got plenty of time on the current collective bargaining agreement. Three major sports besides us go first."

A couple professors quoted in Wednesday's USA TODAY, however, said NHL fans -- many still stung from the lockout that wiped out the 2005-05 season -- may have reason to be concerned. 

"That certainly suggests that NHL players are thinking about a more aggressive posture," says Geoffrey Rapp, a professor of law at the University of Toledo College of Law. 

Much of the media’s attention is focused on the quickly expiring collective bargaining agreement in the NFL. NBPA chief Billy Hunter has told NBA players to prepare for a lockout when the league’s current CBA ends in June. Major League Baseball’s deal with the MLPBA expires in December, but it’s not expectied to be as contentious as some of the agreements Fehr hammered out as head of that union for more than two decades.

"We have an at-war attitude in the NFL" says Bob Bruno, director of the Labor Education Program at the University of Illinois School of Labor & Employment Relations. "We have an at-war attitude in the NBA. And we may very well be getting to that in the NHL."

Fehr told reporters during the all-star weekend that he was still learning the ins and outs of the league’s CBA, which arose out of the lockout. The owners waited out the players and they got their salary cap, an element that union bosses typically don’t take kindly to -- even if it has gone up each offseason since it was instituted.

As the league begins negotiations on a new domestic television contract set to expire at season’s end, the pot will certainly be bigger. Players’ share of revenue (57%) maxed out last season as the league reached $2.7 billion --  meaning ownership gets to keep the anything over that without sharing it with the players. Minimum salaries have gone from $450,000 to $525,000 and the salary cap for each team sits at $59.4 million, $20 million above what it was coming out of the lockout. 

While who shares how much of the revenue pie will certainly be an issue, there are other factors to consider. TSN’s Darren Dreger reported this week that many of the league’s general managers have an issue with the rule that limits teams to four American Hockey League call-ups after March 1. (Teams are still allowed emergency recalls and the restriction ends when a club’s AHL affiliate finishes the season.) 

It's believed the NHLPA is concerned with its veteran players, perhaps losing ice time to call-ups late in the year, along with the optics for the fans who pay to watch NHL players.  Plus, there's an adverse financial effect players who are in the NHL at the deadline would feel if they were openly shuttled back and forth over the remainder of the season.

There’s also the issue of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia, which the NHL has yet to commit to despite the fact that the players are on board. 

  "If you feel compelled to write about collective bargaining, go do it on another sport, please," Bettman quipped in January. “We've got plenty of time until it's us."

Call me a worrier.

Photo: Getty Images
Category: NHL
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