Gary Bettman not pleased with conspiracy talk

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Dave Lozo of
NHL.com has a lengthy interview
with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman
up, in which he speaks on ‘conspiracies’ that have invaded the talk
around hockey and about a possible Winter Classic in Los Angeles.

“It was determined it was kicked in,” Bettman said of the
ruling. When asked about the seven-minute review, he added, “When they
do video replay, they want to make sure they get it right. It should
take as long as it takes them to get it right. I’d rather that than say
you’ve got a minute and 30 seconds and get it wrong.

“Let’s get
something straight — I have complete confidence in the integrity and
professionalism and judgment of my hockey operations department. Period.

“I
think this whole tact of innuendo and insinuation is both insulting and
pure fantasy.”

Bettman praises the Kings franchise
and ownership, which I’m certain will only add to the notion that the
NHL wants the Kings to succeed, but he’s not pulling these complements
out of nowhere. The Kings are a hockey team that is working in Los
Angeles, they’ll have the draft there next summer and it’s a testament
to how with good ownership, leadership and a winning product the sport
can work anywhere.

While he’s certainly gushing in his praise of
the Kings, he wasn’t so keen on the prospect of a Winter Classic being
held in LA.

Could you put out a sheet of ice and make
ice? The answer’s probably yes
— but would it be satisfactory for a competitive game, one that counts
in the standings? I mean, we take two teams and put them outdoors  but
the points in that game matter. And when you look at the way our regular
season ended, we have to make sure all of our games are played under as
close to ideal conditions as possible.

It’s a
legitimate question and no matter how much air conditioning the outdoor
rink may have underneath, the sun and the warm air are likely to play
hell with the ice surface. Still, how great would it be to see the Kings
take on an East coast team with a backdrop of the Pacific ocean, palm
trees and thong-clad ladies on roller blades? Doesn’t exactly scream 
‘traditional pond hockey’ to me, but neither did singing Sweet
Caroline
at Fenway. So anything is possible.

What is wrong with the Sharks?

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Not that long ago, the San Jose Sharks appeared well on their way to winning the Pacific Division title.

On March 14, they had a seven-point lead on both Anaheim and Calgary. Gone is that advantage. Not only have the Ducks surged back into the fight for the division, but the Sharks have lost five in a row and are having a terrible time of late creating any offense.

Their struggles hit a new low Friday with a 6-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, a team with its own flaws and nowhere close to a playoff position.

At one point midway through the second period, the Sharks trailed the Stars by four goals and had only six lousy shots on goal. During this skid, San Jose has scored only five goals.

Earlier this week, members of the Sharks said they weren’t terribly worried about this losing streak. The losses, they had said, were in close games, which is true: San Jose lost three consecutive one-goal games.

“When I look at the losing streak, we dominated some of those games for long periods and found ways to lose. You never like to lose, but I’m not that concerned,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “We’ve got to obviously end it. We’ve got to get healthy. I don’t see a bunch of symptoms of a team that can’t get this fixed pretty quickly.”

This, however, was a blowout. Adam Cracknell recorded the hat trick, pushing his single-season career-high in goals to 10.

The performance at one point forced DeBoer to take a timeout, in which he expressed his displeasure.

Making matters worse for the Sharks: Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game early in the third period and was put under further evaluation. He didn’t return.

The Sharks visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Halak and the Islanders defeat Penguins, move into wild card spot

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Quite a hockey game between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

It offered plenty to enjoy — Phil Kessel‘s dominant but unfruitful shift in overtime, a combined 86 shots on goal between both teams, a showcase of skill from the likes of John Tavares and Sidney Crosby, and two strong goaltending performances from Jaroslav Halak and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, which is just fine in the eyes of Mario Lemieux, set up Brock Nelson‘s goal in the second period.

The Islanders and their fans probably aren’t hung up on style points at this juncture of the season. They just care about wins and points in the standings, and those are exactly what New York accomplished with a 4-3 shootout win in Pittsburgh.

Anthony Beauvillier and Tavares scored for the Islanders in the shootout. Halak made 37 stops, including a game-saver in overtime off Matt Cullen. Halak trapped the puck, which was right on the goal line, between his legs on a chance from in front. The play was reviewed but no goal.

The win gives the Islanders 82 points, which is the same total as the struggling Boston Bruins.

However, the Islanders, with one game in hand on the Bruins, take over the final wild card spot in the East for now.

Video: Friday night fights between Bolts and Red Wings

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Not much offense — actually, just one goal midway through the second period as of the writing of this post — between the Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday.

But there has definitely been some animosity between the two clubs.

Tempers flared late in the first period, with Adam Erne and Andreas Athanasiou getting involved in a spirited scrap — and Athanasiou unsuccessful in his attempt at the take-down.

The bad blood continued in the second period with Greg McKegg and Anthony Mantha getting involved in a fight, and Mantha — given the instigator — landing a couple of shots with McKegg on the ice.

 

NHL, MLB player unions support U.S. women hockey players’ boycott

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Unions representing NHL and Major League Baseball players are backing U.S. Women’s National Hockey team players’ decision to boycott next week’s world championships because of a wage dispute.

The NHL Players’ Association posted a note on its Twitter account on Friday saying it supports the U.S. players while panning USA Hockey’s bid to stock the team with replacements. The NHLPA says the decision to go with replacement players “would only serve to make relations, now and in the future, much worse.”

Earlier in the day, the MLB Players Association encouraged all women hockey players to stand united behind their national team colleagues.

Read more: USA Hockey says it will not offer living wage, as dispute with women’s national team continues

The Twitter messages were posted a day after USA Hockey announced it would begin gauging interest of replacement players to compete at the tournament, which opens next Friday in Plymouth, Michigan.

Players are seeking a four-year contract that includes payments outside the six-month Olympic period.