Poll: Who's more annoying, Ilya Kovalchuk or Lebron James?

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Chances are that if you’re even vaguely interested in professional sports, you’ve probably heard that Lebron James is going to make his long-awaited free agent decision tonight on live TV. If you frequent this site, you’re probably also a little beaten down by the on-again, off-again saga that is Ilya Kovalchuk’s contract negotiations.

As followers of athletic events, it’s crucial that we separate some of the egomania and greed from the games. Otherwise we’d likely feel sour whether our favorite team was dousing each other with victory champagne or sulking their way to the worst record in their given league.

Still, there’s no doubt that Lebron-Kovalchuk talk has stretched itself from charming to exhausting. With all the negativity toward the two parties on Twitter and Internet forums around the world, I couldn’t help but wonder which one annoys hockey fans the most? Before I drop the poll on you, a few points for and against each one being the champion of irritation.

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Why he’s annoying: Lebron James might be compared to Michael Jordan, but he’s had the red carpet rolled out for him since Day One. He owned a Hummer in high school, was given a huge contract from Nike before he played a single NBA game and has been crowned the “King” without winning a title.

Redeeming qualities: That being said, he’s seen something Kovalchuk hasn’t. That would be the second round of the playoffs (not to mention the third round and the NBA finals). He’s also known as someone who makes his teammates better, a qualification that is still in limbo for Kovalchuk. Let’s not forget, also, that the NBA salary cap is a lot more conducive to the kind of deal Lebron wants as opposed to Kovy. He’s also a charming fellow.

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Why he’s annoying: He passed up the kind of lifetime, ridiculous deal he’s hoping for with the team that drafted him in Atlanta. Whether it’s the fault of his teammates or not, he’s 1-8 in his playoff career. Even in the Olympics, Kovalchuk has had very little “big game” success. It’s not like he was starving with his previous $7.5 million per year contract.

Redeeming qualities: Despite those flaws, he’s one of the most consistent scorers in the league even though he only benefited from playing a few years with capable teammates such as Marian Hossa, Marc Savard and Dany Heatley. Only Alex Ovechkin scored more goals since the lockout. Kovalchuk might have spurned the Thrashers, but he also suffered quite some time with that team. Unlike Lebron, Kovalchuk had to fight through the culture shock of going from Russia to Atlanta. By all accounts, he seems like a good person to boot.

So with that out of the way, which athlete leaves you more annoyed: Lebron or Kovalchuk? Vote in the poll below.

Roberto Luongo leaves game with apparent injury, as Panthers fall to Penguins

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The Florida Panthers lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday. Making matters worse was the fact their goalie Roberto Luongo left the game in the third period with an apparent hand injury.

The injury occurred after a collision in the crease with Penguins forward Conor Sheary.

Luongo immediately went down to the ice in pain. A replay from above the net showed Luongo’s right hand getting caught in an awkward position against the post after coming into contact with Sheary as he cut through in front of the crease in pursuit of the puck.

The injury forced James Reimer off the bench and into the game with the Panthers trailing by a goal. MacKenzie Weegar tied the game for Florida before Sheary scored the eventual winner about eight minutes later, on a night when the Penguins fired 48 shots on the two Panthers goalies.

Luongo gave up three goals on 36 shots before leaving the game. The Panthers now head out on the road. They’ll visit the Washington Capitals on Saturday.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Video: More offside drama had Sabres coach Phil Housley up in arms

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Just hours after the NHL admitted to an offside challenge error, there was another controversy during the Sabres-Canucks game on Friday.

Vancouver appeared to take the lead on a Daniel Sedin goal. However, Buffalo coach Phil Housley challenged the play for offside, after replays showed Jake Virtanen may not have had complete control of the puck as he broke in over the blue line.

The following challenge resulted in a brutally long review. For Buffalo, it was also unsuccessful as, surprisingly, officials deemed Virtanen did have control of the puck as he entered the zone. The goal counted, Vancouver took the lead.

Housley was not happy about it.

Not only was the challenge unsuccessful, but the Sabres were penalized for delay of game as a result.

From the NHL:

After reviewing all available replays and consulting with the Linesman, NHL Hockey Operations staff confirmed that Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen had possession and control of the puck as he entered the attacking zone prior to the goal. According to Rule 83.1, “a player actually controlling the puck who shall cross the line ahead of the puck shall not be considered ‘off-side,’ provided he had possession and control of the puck prior to his skates crossing the blue line.”

Therefore the original call stands – good goal Vancouver Canucks.

It took 4:27 to come to a decision, too.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Devils place goalie Cory Schneider on injured reserve

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NEWARK, N.J. (AP) The New Jersey Devils placed goalie Cory Schneider on injured reserve with a lower-body injury suffered Thursday night in a 5-4 overtime victory at Ottawa.

Schneider left after the second period. Keith Kinkaid replaced him and stopped all nine shots he faced to earn the victory.

With Schneider sidelined, Kinkaid was expected to start Friday night at home against San Jose.

The Devils recalled goalie Scott Wedgewood from Binghamton of the American Hockey League.

The Devils catch a scheduling break with a week off until their next game Oct. 27, the first day Schneider is eligible to return.

Schneider is 4-1-0 in six games this season with a 3.30 goals-against average.

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Andreas Athanasiou, Red Wings finally settle on one-year deal

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The contract stalemate between the Detroit Red Wings and Andreas Athanasiou is finally over.

On Friday, TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported that the two sides struck a deal that will see the 23-year-old forward back in the lineup, at least for this season. It’s a one-year deal worth $1.387 million.

Due to Detroit’s tight salary cap situation, the deal has not been officially registered with the NHL because general manager Ken Holland needs to free up space in order to fit Athanasiou’s contract.

Athanasiou, who was a restricted free agent this summer, was seeking a two-year deal worth around $2.5 million per season. The Red Wings, meanwhile, were holding firm on a one- or two-year deal carrying a $1.9 million AAV. As the stalemate dragged on, he began practicing with Swiss side HC Lugano, but did not sign a contract. He had until Dec. 1 to make an NHL return in order to be eligible to play this season. The KHL card was played, but as Torey Krug showed, that move is always a clear bluff.

The one-year pact is essentially a “show-me” deal for Athanasiou, who scored 18 goals and recorded 29 points last season. He finished second on the Red Wings in even strength goals (17) in 2016-17 and tallied a pair of overtime winners. A good year and with some salary off the books next summer, he can cash in with a longer-term contract. He’ll once again be an RFA next summer, so Detroit will control his rights, but he’ll have arbitration rights.

According to MLive.com’s Ansar Khan, along with the contract Athanasiou has been promised a minutes bump from the 13:27 he played last season, as well as regular time on both special teams units.

Detroit is off to a 4-3-0 start and averaging 3.14 goals per game. Once Athanasiou arrives from Switzerland and gets up to speed — possibly with an AHL conditioning stint — his presence will certainly be a boost to the Red Wings’ lineup.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.: