Scott Nichol speaks about the Maxim Lapierre hit

Reaction to Maxim Lapierre’s hit on Scott
Nichol
has been near unanimous: it was horribly dirty play and he
deserved the suspension he received, and perhaps should have been
suspending for longer. On the play, Lapierre checked
Nichol from behind
after he had released a shot on net, sending
Nichol into the boards head first and starting an angry scrum between
both the Sharks and Canadiens. Nichol
is out ten days with a shoulder injury himself.

Personally, the play was beyond scary and really hit me hard. As soon
as I saw replay of the hit, I was instantly reminded of when Mike
Modano
was sent headfirst into the boards by Ruslan Sulei, a play
that looked like it nearly killed him.

Lapierre was handed down a four-game suspension by the NHL yesterday.
Today, David Pollack talked to Nichol about the hit and the scrum that
happened afterward. His
reaction may shock you.

“It’s one of those things,” Nichols said when we talked this morning.
“We’re the third or fourth line and we play against other third and
fourth line guys. I’m not defending him or anything, but you play right
on the edge and sometimes for myself, you’re going hard to the net and
things like that happen.”

Later he added:  “I’m no saint by any means — I’ve  been suspended,
too, before — and in the heat of the battle, you don’t  mean to do it.
You’re trying to finish your check or your trying to stick up for a
teammate. There’s so many different variables.”

It’s a lengthy interview, and Nichol goes on to talk about his
reaction immediately after the hit and how he and the rest of the Sharks
originally Andrei Markov was the perpetrator of the hit. He also has
the cringe-inducing description of his injury:

“I
thought my shoulder was on the other side. It just went numb and I
didn’t know what went wrong. When I first hit, I thought I broke my
collar bone. Everything in that area went numb, but once I came in and
it settled down a little bit, it was pretty sore.

You
have to respect Nichol for being not only being open to talking about
the injury and the hit, but with being completely honest with his
feelings. Lapierre is being vilified by the media for the hit, yet
Nichol says it’s just an unfortunate play that was the result of an
incredibly fast sport that is played on ice with concrete-hard walls
lining the playing arena.

There’s an argument that the players
nowadays aren’t any more dirty or vicious than they’ve been in the past,
but that their athleticism, speed and size is making the game much more
dangerous overall. The forces involved when two players collide in
today’s NHL are massive, and when you add in the desire to play your
heart out each night you get some plays that are the result of just
plain, hard play and bad luck.

Was this that sort of play? Well,
Lapierre did hit Nichol from behind when it was definitely not needed.
Was it a vicious play, or just careless? Was the fact that the referee
who was just feet away from the play failed to call a penalty the real
injustice here? What are your thoughts?

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    The Ducks look pretty mighty right now after six consecutive wins

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    In what should be a disturbing trend for every other team in the Pacific Division, the Anaheim Ducks have now won six consecutive games, and eight of their last 10.

    After dominating the shot clock for pretty much all of Friday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes, the Ducks completely took over on the scoreboard in the third period. It seemed like only a matter of time before a breakthrough would occur.

    Just 24 hours after beating the L.A. Kings, the Ducks earned a 5-2 victory over the Coyotes.

    Ryan Kesler has eight points in his last six games. Corey Perry has seven points in his last six games. Patrick Maroon, who had only eight points all season prior to Friday, had a three-point night versus Arizona.

    Again. Bad news for every other team in the Pacific.

    The Ducks now have a three-point lead over the Coyotes for third place in the division. They’re one point back of second-place San Jose and eight back of division-leading L.A.

    As for everyone else, more specifically the Canucks, Flames and Oilers, well it might be time to start focusing more on the upcoming trade deadline and, beyond that, the draft.

    The Ducks had a terrible start to this season, one that started with so much hype about a team seen as an immediate Stanley Cup contender for 2015-16.

    Count Corey Perry as one who believes those early season struggles could pay off at playoff time.

    And remember all of that talk in October about Bruce Boudreau perhaps at the end of his days as coach of the Ducks?

    At the end of October, GM Bob Murray vowed to be patient despite such a poor start just a few months after being one win away from the Stanley Cup Final last June.

    There is still plenty of hockey remaining in the regular season. The Ducks have 32 games remaining on their schedule. But it appears that patience Murray showed in October is paying off.

    Jets can’t complete the comeback after miserable start against Hurricanes

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    WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) Phillip Di Giuseppe, Andrej Nestrasil, Jordan Staal and Justin Faulk scored in the first period, and the Carolina Hurricanes held on for a 5-3 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night.

    The Hurricanes scored four times on their first nine shots, taking a 4-0 lead just 10:04 into the game. Nestrasil added another goal in the third period, and Cam Ward made 33 saves. Staal and Joakim Nordstrom each had a pair of assists.

    Alexander Burmistrov, Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler scored for Winnipeg.

    Jets rookie Connor Hellebuyck allowed three goals while facing only six shots before being replaced by Michael Hutchinson after Staal’s power-play goal just 4:33 in. Hutchinson, who hadn’t played since a 4-1 loss in Anaheim on Jan. 3, finished with 21 saves.

    The loss wrapped up Winnipeg’s season-high six-game homestand, which included just one victory.

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    Carolina’s first goal came after the Jets turned over the puck and Di Giuseppe scored on a sharp-angled shot at 1:43.

    Hellebuyck then kicked out a bad rebound and Nestrasil tallied his 16th goal of the season in his 100th NHL game from almost the same angle at 3:05.

    With Byfuglien in the penalty box for delay of game, Staal’s shot beat Hellebuyck, ending the young goalie’s night.

    Faulk made it 4-0 when his team’s third shot at Hutchinson went between his pads at 10:04.

    The Jets came out at a faster, more aggressive pace to start the second period and it paid off with 1:25 remaining.

    Andrew Copp and Chris Thorburn were battling a pair of Hurricanes behind the net when Thorburn poked the puck out front as he was falling and Burmistrov got his sixth goal of the season.

    Ladd, who hit the post late in the second period, banged home a rebound with Hurricanes winger Jeff Skinner off for hooking at 9:07 of the third.

    Byfuglien one-timed a pass from Nikolaj Ehlers that Wheeler deflected to make it 4-3 with 6:12 remaining.

    Nestrasil sealed the win with his second goal at 18:40.

    NOTES: Ehlers’ assist extended his point streak to six games, with four goals and four assists. … Winnipeg heads out for a two-game road trip starting in Colorado on Saturday. Carolina visits Montreal on Sunday.

    Video: Zatkoff robs Condra with sprawling paddle save

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    All Erik Condra had to do was lift the puck off the ice.

    He didn’t, and as a result, he was robbed by sprawled out Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Jeff Zatkoff, who made a spectacular desperation save with the paddle of his stick on the Lightning forward.

    The save occurred just past the midway point of the third period. That kept the Penguins in the game, down by a goal at the time.

    However, the Penguins couldn’t get the equalizer. The result was a 6-3 loss for Pittsburgh, as Tampa Bay scored twice later in the period.

    Defending Eastern Conference champion Bolts continue hot streak

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    Remember those distractions the Tampa Bay Lightning had to endure?

    — The future of captain Steven Stamkos, who is a pending unrestricted free agent and whose contract situation has been an ongoing discussion point for months now.

    Jonathan Drouin‘s camp publicly requesting a trade, then having the 20-year-old forward sent to the minors and then suspended by Tampa Bay, etc.

    Well, through it all, the defending Eastern Conference champions have emerged and are now one of the hottest teams in the National Hockey League . Since the start of January, the Bolts have lost twice. In 13 games.

    They continued their hot streak Friday, defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins — another of those teams on an impressive streak — by a final score of 6-3, with Tyler Johnson leading the way with three points. He was one of six Tampa Bay players to record a multi-point night.

    Penguins’ goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was pulled in the second period after allowing four goals on 14 shots.

    Tampa Bay is now five points behind the Florida Panthers for first in the Atlantic Division.

    For the Penguins, the loss keeps them on the outside of the playoff bubble for now. They remain one point back of New Jersey for the final Wild Card spot in the East.

    Sidney Crosby extended his point streak to nine games. He also has goals in five straight and is one point shy of 900 for his career.