Zack Kassian

Rash of head shots earn heavy suspensions for three WJC players

The NHL hasn’t been able to curb the number of concussions its players have dealt with despite making some sincere rule changes from this season to last, but it seems like the sport’s biggest hockey league isn’t the only group struggling with hits to the head.

Brutal, controversial checks seem to be stealing the show in all the wrong ways during the 2011 World Junior Championships this week. For that reason, the International Ice Hockey Federation recently announced that the following three players would face hefty suspensions in addition to the automatic one-game banishments: Slovakian skaters Martin Marincin, Peter Hrasko and Canadian forward Zack Kassian.

Marincin (three extra games) and Hrasko (two extra) earned those suspensions during last night’s contest vs. the US team while Kassian received one extra game for a hit during Canada’s game against the Czech Republic on Tuesday.

Here are explanations for the suspensions via Dan Marouelli, the IIHF`s appointed Disciplinary Single Judge. First, let’s start with a snippet of what he said about Marincin:

In Marouelli’s opinion, this was a premeditated act as the puck had long left the vicinity of the play. Marincin took advantage of a defenceless and unsuspecting opponent and deliberately targeted the head and neck area, resulting in an injury to Zucker.

Now, here is why Marouelli decided to suspend Hrasko for two extra games.

Hrasko deliberately targeted the head of the American player, using his elbow and upper arm to deliver the blow and causing D’Amigo to be thrown violently into the boards. As a result, D’Amigo struck his head against the glass, sustaining an injury.

The additional suspension was a direct result of Hrasko’s targeting the head of his opponent on the play.

Finally, here is why Buffalo Sabres prospect Zack Kassian received one more game than the standard single game suspension.

Marouelli affirmed that the on-ice officials followed correct protocol by discussing the incident while Senkerik was being treated on ice by doctors. It was after this discussion that the referees decided to assess a five-minute major and match penalty.

Video: Phil Kessel displays incredible hand-eye coordination on goal

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This has been a tough postseason for Phil Kessel haters.

The supposed “choker” is on a team that’s in the Eastern Conference Final, but Kessel obviously isn’t just in for the ride with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He scored his 18th point in 17 postseason games by scoring the 1-0 goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6.

(Watch that goal in the video above.)

It was a dramatic first period, with a Jonathan Drouin goal getting disallowed and Andrei Vasilevskiy making some huge saves on tough chances.

Can Pittsburgh protect this slim lead with 1-0 down one period? We’ll see, but either way, what a great postseason for Kessel.

Judge for yourself: Was Drouin’s would-be 1-0 goal offside?

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To start the seemingly pivotal stretch, Andrei Vasilevskiy made an outstanding save on Evgeni Malkin on what sure looked like a scary chance.

The play swiftly shifted from the Tampa Bay Lightning’s end to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ side of the ice, and it seemed like Jonathan Drouin scored a big 1-0 goal in Game 6.

As it turns out, the goal was disallowed thanks to an offside goal review.

Here are a few viewpoints on that moment in GIF form … you can get a fuller view via the video above.

The general feeling among those who don’t have a horse in the race is that it was the right call. (Lightning fans were, uh, not happy.)

Lightning coach believes Drouin ‘is going to be dominant in this league’

TAMPA, FL - APRIL 30:  Jonathan Drouin #27 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates his goal against the New York Islanders  during the first period in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on April 30, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Scott Iskowitz/Getty Images)
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At some point, it will probably be kind of boring to hear members of the Tampa Bay Lightning organization praise Jonathan Drouin.

At least if Drouin re-signs with the Bolts after quite the affirming postseason and his ascension amid injuries.

These days? It’s still sort of entertaining.

In the latest case, Jon Cooper was asked to compare the development paths for Nikita Kucherov vs. Drouin. After empathizing with the pressure Drouin carries as a high-end pick (vs. Kucherov’s ability to come in under the radar), Cooper had some very positive things to say about No. 27.

” … So many people think, well, you’re just going to step in the league at 18 and be dominant,” Cooper said. “I truly believe Jonathan is going to be dominant in this league, but it’s hard to do at 18. He had to work through it, and that’s it.”

Drouin, now at 21, has 12 points in 15 playoff games.

In other Lightning news, it sounds like the team will roll with 11 forwards and seven defensemen, an alignment that has been working well lately and also came through at times during the 2015 postseason.

The Penguins, meanwhile, replace Beau Bennett with Conor Sheary.

WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins at Tampa Bay Lightning – Game 6

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 22:  Tyler Johnson #9 of the Tampa Bay Lightning collides with Phil Kessel #81 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 22, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)
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Tonight could be the final game of the Eastern Conference Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning. You can catch Game 6 via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay (8:00 p.m. ET)

The television broadcast of Game 6 is on NBCSN. To stream the game using the NBC Sports Live Extra app, click here. The Bolts lead the series 3-2.

Here’s some relevant reading material to get you ready for tonight’s game:

Malkin guaranteed a Penguins win in Game 6

Lightning coach doesn’t seem flustered by Malkin’s guarantee

Kucherov continues to be clutch for the Bolts this postseason

Marc-Andre Fleury: ‘I should have been better’ in Game 5