NHL Board of Governors approves head shot penalty

The NHL announced tonight that the league rule book will be one penalty heavier next season adding a major penalty for blindside hits to the head. Get your pens out to write this one into your copy of the league rules that I know you’ve got sitting on your desk. Wait, I’m the only one with that? Well, fine, but here it is anyhow.

Rule 48, “Illegal Check to the Head,” also empowers a referee, at his discretion, to assess a match penalty if, in his judgment, the penalized player attempted to or deliberately injured his opponent with an illegal check to the head.

There shouldn’t be a lot of argument about this from anyone but I’m sure the first instance this comes into play will come under intense, slow motion scrutiny by everyone on the Internet and otherwise. That said, having to add a rule like this is a bit crazy in the first place in that none of the other infractions in the book covered having a guy come out of nowhere and blasting another player in the head being a penalty. One fun side tweak to all this is what to do with guys who keep doing this repeatedly.

Any player who incurs a total of two game misconducts under this rule, in either the regular season or playoffs, will be suspended automatically for his team’s next game. For each subsequent game misconduct penalty, the automatic suspension will be increased by one game.

If deemed appropriate, supplementary discipline also can be applied.

With this kind of rider attached to the rule, I certainly hope the league won’t be wishy-washy about suspending guys when it’s called for in the rule book. The league’s rule about suspending that are called for an instigator penalty with less than five minutes to play has been rescinded more than it’s been punished. Doing the same in this case would be a tremendous mistake.

It’s rough that it took Marc Savard getting blown up by Matt Cooke this year to finally snap the league and players out of their haze and into doing something proactive about protecting one another, but at the same time, it’s great that at least something is being done and almost immediately as well.

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    Leafs and Coyotes headline Craig Button’s list of top NHL-affiliated prospects

    TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 2:  William Nylander #21 of Team Sweden is stopped by Ville Husso #30 of Team Finland during a quarter-final game in the 2015 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship at the Air Canada Centre on January 2, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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    Maple Leafs and Coyotes featured prominently on Craig Button’s list of the top 50 NHL-affiliated prospects.

    Button, the former Calgary GM whose current title is TSN’s Director of Scouting, has two Leafs forwards — William Nylander (1st) and Mitch Marner (6th) — and two Coyotes forwards — Dylan Strome (2nd) and Christian Dvorak (3rd) — in his top six.

    Flyers defensive prospect Ivan Provorov is fourth, with Jets forward Kyle Connor fifth.

    Click here to read the other 44 youngsters that made the cut.

    One of them is Jimmy Vesey (8th), the Harvard scoring sensation the Predators need to sign by August, otherwise he can become a free agent.

    Goalie nods: Ducks give red-hot Andersen second straight start

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    Bruce Boudreau has one of those “problems you like to have” in Anaheim.

    Much of his club’s recent surge is due to excellent play from both netminders — John Gibson and Frederik Andersen — but after alternating starts for the last five games, Boudreau will give Andersen his second straight nod when the Ducks take on the Jackets in Columbus.

    The Danish netminder is full value for consecutive starts. Andersen made 28 saves and allowed just one goal in a win over Philadelphia last time out and has been on fire over his last six games, going a perfect 6-0-0 with a 1.67 GAA and .941 save percentage.

    “We just wanted to change the rotation a little bit,” Boudreau said of tonight’s starting goalie choice, per the O.C. Register. “Gibby’s done really good against Chicago and Vancouver and Freddie’s done really good against Edmonton, Calgary. He played an outstanding game last game and I thought he deserved this game tonight.”

    Anaheim is in the midst of a lengthy seven-game road swing. After tonight’s game, the Ducks take on the ‘Hawks, Oilers and Flames before wrapping the trip in Vancouver on Feb. 18.

    For Columbus, Joonas Korpisalo starts in goal.

    Elsewhere…

    — Looks as though Jhonas Enroth gets the nod in Brooklyn with Jonathan Quick banged up. The Isles are going with Thomas Greiss, who has emerged as one of the NHL’s top backup netminders this year.

    Robin Lehner goes for the Sabres in Philly tonight. Steve Mason will make his sixth straight start, and Michal Neuvirth will resume backup duties after being activated from IR.

    Semyon Varlamov‘s expected to be in goal for the Avs tonight when they take on the Sens. Ottawa will go with Andrew Hammond after Craig Anderson started against Detroit last night.

    — Minnesota is going back to Devan Dubnyk, tonight, who has lost nine in a row (0-8-1) with a 3.32 GAA and .881 save percentage over that time. Washington will start Braden Holtby.

    Tuukka Rask versus Connor Hellebuyck as the Bruins take on the Jets.

    — Dallas looks like it’ll go back to Kari Lehtonen after his strong effort in Tuesday’s win over the Wild. Chicago, unsurprisingly, is sticking with its workhorse No. 1, Corey Crawford.

    — Toronto’s switching things up and going with Jonathan Bernier as its road swing continues in Edmonton. The Oilers are going with Cam Talbot, one day after sending Anders Nilsson to the minors.

    Karri Ramo versus Alex Stalock tonight in San Jose.

    Subban out of hospital and ‘doing well’ after surgery to repair fractured larynx

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    The Boston Bruins have provided another update on goalie Malcolm Subban, who suffered a fractured larynx Saturday when he was struck in the throat with a puck during an AHL game in Portland:

    “Malcolm underwent successful surgery on February 8 at Mass Eye & Ear Hospital in Boston to repair his larynx fracture. He is doing well and has been released from the hospital. While there is no definitive timetable for his return at this time, he is expected to be out a minimum of eight weeks.”

    Subban, 22, was the 24th overall pick in the 2012 draft.

    Related: Malcolm Subban feels he’s ‘taken a huge step forward’ from last year

    ‘No Spurgeon tonight’ for desperate Wild

    ST PAUL, MN - MAY 9: Jared Spurgeon #46 of the Minnesota Wild celebrates scoring a goal against the Chicago Blackhawks during the third period in Game Four of the Second Round of the 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 9, 2014 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. The Wild defeated the Blackhawks 4-2. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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    Desperate for a win and hosting the NHL-leading Washington Capitals, the Minnesota Wild be without defenseman Jared Spurgeon for a second straight game.

    “No Spurgeon tonight,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said this morning. “He’s not ready.”

    Spurgeon has already missed one game, Tuesday’s 4-3 OT loss to Dallas. He suffered a “deep bruise” Saturday in St. Louis, and his status for this Saturday’s game against Boston is uncertain.

    The Wild are also missing d-man Jonas Brodin, currently on injured reserve with a broken foot.

    That’s two significant injuries on the back end, as Spurgeon and Brodin each average over 20 minutes in ice time.

    In a related story, Ryan Suter played a season-high 33:15 against the Stars, while AHL call-up Mike Reilly was out there for just 12:27.

    Related: Yeo was ‘disappointed’ to see Hoppy the rabbit holding a ‘YEO MUST GO’ sign