Sentencing decision expected this afternoon in Nikolai Khabibulin's extreme DUI trial

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for khabibulindui.jpgThis afternoon will mark a pivotal moment for the Edmonton Oilers and Nikolai Khabibulin’s life in general, as an Arizona judge will pass along the Russian goalie’s prison sentence after he was found guilty of three charges related to an extreme DUI incident.

Here are a few quick facts about the situation, in case you haven’t been following the coverage of the court case.

  • Khabibulin will face at least 30 days in jail by Arizona state law, but could receive a maximum of six months if the judge finds his cause particularly unsympathetic.
  • While we discussed the far-out possibility of the Oilers voiding Khabibulin’s contract, it seems like that is highly unlikely. The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson made an interesting comparison to Mike Bell, a troubled forward who honestly is almost a forgotten player even though he’s not that far removed from an up-and-down NHL career.

On the surface, this is a different scenario than the one involving former NHL winger Mark Bell a few years back.

Bell was convicted of drunk driving in 2007 after his rented Toyota Camry rear-ended a pickup truck in California, plowing that vehicle into a telephone pole. The truck driver was injured in the accident over the Labour Day weekend in 2006. Bell was subsequently suspended by the NHL for 15 games.

Bell, who took a breathalyzer that registered .21, was sentenced to six months in jail, but only served six weeks behind bars.

There was personal injury in the Bell accident. Nobody was hurt in Khabibulin’s case.

Of course, a devil’s advocate stance would be that Khabibulin was simply fortunate that no one else was hurt in his scenario. After all, that’s one of the dangers of drunk driviing; you’re not just putting your life (and your passengers’ lives) in jeopardy, but other drivers as well.

  • It would be a surprising turn of events, but you cannot totally rule out the NHL suspending Khabibulin either. As Matheson pointed out, Bell missed 15 games for his transgressions.
  • Chances are, Khabibulin will miss either a portion of training camp, if not the entire proceedings altogether. That’s not exactly great news for a team with a lot of new faces in the first place.
  • Whatever way you slice it, the Oilers’ goalie situation is murky. Khabibulin has back problems and is old. Devan Dubynk and Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers are unproven if not below average. Martin Gerber is the definition of a journeyman goalie. They might not lack bodies in net, but would you want any of them starting for your NHL team right now?

OK, so that’s the Cliff’s Notes version of the Khabibulin extreme DUI situation. We will keep our eyes open for news on the case and pass along information once word of his sentence surfaces.

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    Early thoughts – and praise – for Capitals landing Kevin Shattenkirk

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    Jaws dropped around the hockey world when news broke that the Washington Capitals landed Kevin Shattenkirk in a blockbuster trade. Heads were then scratched as people tried to make sense of the “conditions” of a conditional second-rounder involved in the move.

    With a little time for the smoke to clear and with the assets revealed, here are some scattered thoughts.

    PHT will likely cover more of the fallout on Tuesday and beyond, though, so stay tuned.

    Brian MacLellan deserves consideration as a top GM

    Judging an executive can be really tricky; while a GM of the Year award is easy to justify, it’s also easy to mock. Even the best managers inherit a roster (aside from MacLellan’s predecessor George McPhee, who will build one in Vegas), so you have to credit some successes to the guy who came before.

    And, yes, McPhee helped put together a core that includes Alex Ovechkin, Braden Holtby and Nicklas Backstrom.

    Even so, MacLellan evokes Stan Bowman in masterfully adding tremendous electrons to a fantastic nucleus.

    He added Matt Niskanen (and, admittedly, flubbed it with Brooks Orpik) to beef up a defense to help the shrewd hiring of Barry Trotz as head coach. Trotz seems like he’s ending what was a busy procession of shaky bench bosses.

    MacLellan really nailed it the next summer, trading for T.J. Oshie and signing Justin Williams to a bargain deal. A year later, the Capitals added a fantastic third-line center option in Lars Eller via a smart trade.

    And now this. It’s not clear where Kevin Shattenkirk will fit in the Capitals’ lineup, but either way, he boosts an already formidable group.

    Misc.

    Let’s lightning round some other thoughts.

    • Scottie Upshall joked about all the one-timers Shattenkirk is primed to set up for Alex Ovechkin … but he has a point.
    • It’s difficult to imagine the Capitals re-signing Shattenkirk, putting continued emphasis on the talk of Washington being in the last season of a “two-year window” to make their greatest push for a Stanley Cup. At the same time, there aren’t a lot of problem contracts beyond Orpik’s in Washington, so the plus side is that MacLellan can also show how he might be Bowman-like in making the right calls in who to bring back. Make no mistake about it, getting Shattenkirk is about now, not later.
    • Oh yeah the Capitals also got a nice sneaky bonus in landing Pheonix Copley, who better have the nickname “typo.”

    All things considered, it’s no surprise that the Capitals are excited.

    There’s at least a chance Shattenkirk might be able to suit up for Washington as soon as Tuesday’s game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, but either way, this sure looks like a slam dunk.

    Wild just wouldn’t stay down, edge Kings in OT

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    Don’t blame Ben Bishop if, deep down, he was glad that he didn’t make his Los Angeles Kings debut on Monday.

    After seeing the kind of speed, drive and all-around electric play displayed by the Minnesota Wild, you can understand a goalie shuddering at the often wide-open action. Despite falling behind four times against the Kings, the Wild ultimately edged Los Angeles 5-4 in an overtime thriller.

    Mikael Granlund‘s 20th goal of the season ended it in OT, and quickly. And it was beautiful:

    …. Unless you’re Jonathan Quick and the Kings, that is.

    Granlund is absolutely on fire right now.

    Ryan White made a great first impression for the Wild, scoring a goal and an assist (while displaying great flow). Martin Hanzal wasn’t able to score, though he did make his presence felt with five hits. And, again, Bishop might have secretly been relieved to put his Kings debut on hold.

    Marian Gaborik turned back the clock a bit to his Wild prime, scoring a goal and an assist. He generally made quite a bit happen for Los Angeles.

    It was a tough one for Anze Kopitar, meanwhile, who was unable to generate offense and suffered a -3. He wasn’t able to stop Granlund in OT, though who could?

    The Wild still must worry as mumps sidelined at least Zach Parise and Jason Pominville, but for now, they’re battling on. Just ask the Kings how resilient this group really is.

    Sell this: Kucherov, Lightning put trades behind them, blast Senators

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    The Tampa Bay Lightning might be in sell mode, but that doesn’t mean their players are quitting on this season.

    After shipping Ben Bishop and Brian Boyle out of town, they could have rolled over against a hungry Ottawa Senators team. Instead, they blew them out, winning 5-1 on Monday.

    Nikita Kucherov was the biggest standout, collecting a natural hat trick, which you can watch above. (He also generated an assist.)

    Jonathan Drouin had a big night in his own right, assisting on all three of Kucherov’s goals. Victor Hedman and Tyler Johnson generated two assists apiece, as well.

    And, yes, Andrei Vasilevskiy inspired at least a few “Ben who?” jokes by making 39 out of 40 saves, including this beauty:

    As you can see, Ottawa actually had a 1-0 lead at that point, so it could have been a different game if the agile goalie did do the splits there.

    The Lightning are still five points out of the final wild card spot, trailing Boyle’s new team in the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Senators, meanwhile, find themselves slipping a bit out of the race to win the Atlantic Division, especially considering Montreal’s comeback win against New Jersey.

    Tampa Bay may may not be done making moves and recognizing painful truth that the odds are against them rallying to a playoff spot. That said, nights like these make you wonder if a run is at least possible.

    Canadiens’ big guns trigger comeback OT win against Devils

    NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 27:  Max Pacioretty #67 of the Montreal Canadiens celebrates the game winning power play goal by Alex Galchenyuk #27 at 2:54 of overtrime against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 27, 2017 in Newark, New Jersey.  The Canadiens defeated the Devils 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Things were looking a little grim there for the Montreal Canadiens on Monday.

    The New Jersey Devils had, at one point, a 2-0 lead. At least in some corners there were murmurs about a bad start for Claude Julien. Then their big guns swung the game.

    The comeback started with Alex Radulov, though the drama was just beginning:

    Travis Zajac made it 3-1 for the Devils on the power play, only for Radulov to assist on two Max Pacioretty goals to send the game to overtime.

    From there, Alex Galchenyuk scored the overtime-winner for Montreal on the man advantage. Radulov got yet another secondary assist – he ended up with four points tonight – while Shea Weber nabbed the primary helpers on the last two tallies.

    Long story short, the Canadiens biggest names came through, allowing Julien to maybe utther a sigh of relief.