David Steckel, Sidney Crosby

NHL will not discipline David Steckel for his Winter Classic hit on Sidney Crosby; Crosby not amused

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One of the tougher moments for Penguins fans to watch during the Winter Classic came at the end of the second period when Capitals forward David Steckel crushed Pens captain Sidney Crosby with a seemingly late and blindside hit that sent him down the ice and dazed. After the game, Crosby made it clear that he’d didn’t know until just before speaking to the press who hit him. Crosby did make it clear he thought it was a bit late and coach Dan Bylsma said he’d need to see the video before having an opinion on things.

Today the NHL said they would not be taking action against Steckel for the hit on Crosby, and after some time has burned off since then and the Penguins have gotten a look at the tape, they’re not too happy about how things went down Saturday night as Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review found out. Crosby, in particular, took a verbal jab about the hit.

“How tall is Steckel?” Crosby asked. “I find it hard to believe that his shoulder hit me in the head … at 6-foot-5 … by accident.”

Penguins tough defenseman Brooks Orpik was a bit more pointed in his take.

“It was definitely dirty,” defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “Sid was just skating by and he definitely wasn’t near the puck.”

The contact with Crosby’s head was unnecessary, in the Penguins’ eyes.

“It looked like he went a little bit lateral on him, which was the dirty part of it,” Orpik said.

Steckel, for what it’s worth, says that he didn’t even know he hit Crosby that way and that it was just one of those things that happens in a game.

The only catch with the hit, which you can see here, is that it’s tough to tell if Steckel meant to hit Crosby like that or if it was just a sort of freak occurrence that happens because everyone is playing at a high speed. Stu Hackel of Sports Illustrated’s Red Light says that the Penguins complaints are getting old, especially those coming from Sidney Crosby.

As we’ve noted before, Crosby is hardly an innocent on the ice, and that’s fine. It doesn’t diminish his formidable abilities as a player. But if he’s going to whack guys, he’s going to get whacked right back. To complain about it is just plain disingenuous.

We get that whenever something happens with Crosby it’s going to make news, even the slightest of things. When he gets popped in questionable fashion it’s an instant talking point and something that will be poured over on videotape to assess whether or not Steckel is a dirty player or if Crosby is just whining.

In this case, with Sid opening up about it today it’s gamesmanship and self-preservation. Sid will sound off about it now hoping that word gets around and next time he’ll get that call. He’s also voicing his opinion because, let’s face it, getting hit like that stinks and when you’re the biggest name in the game, your words carry a bit more weight to them in the media than if Steckel were to complain about a similar hit from anyone else.

Getting an edge for yourself or your team any way you can that isn’t outright cheating is more than acceptable. Sid’s working the system for what it’s worth. If you’re looking to get mad about things, get mad about the system that will give the Penguins some penalty “karma” of sorts a little bit down the road.

Ekblad back on the ice for Panthers after World Cup injury

NASHVILLE, TN - JANUARY 30:  Aaron Ekblad #5 of the Florida Panthers poses for a 2016 NHL All-Star portrait at Bridgestone Arena on January 30, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Sanford Myers/Getty Images)
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The Florida Panthers had a bit of a scare during the 2016 World Cup when defenseman Aaron Ekblad, while playing for Team North America, was injured in a first-round game against Finland that kept him out for the remainder of the tournament.

On Saturday, Ekblad was back on the ice for the Panthers doing some individual workouts following the injury.

“Ekblad is going to be fine,” Panthers coach Gerard Galant said, via Alain Poupart of NHL.com.  “You see him out there skating already. I think it was a little scary, but he feels real good. He’s going to skate and see how he feels, but everything looks good.”

It was initially reported that Ekblad had a concussion, but it was later reported to be a neck injury.

The Panthers haven’t been overly concerned with the injury over the past week.

Ekblad, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft, has quickly become one of the franchise building blocks for a Panthers team that is on the rise in the Eastern Conference.

Still only 20 years old, he is already a top-pairing defenseman in the league and has scored 27 goals in his career, a number that is pretty much unheard of for a defenseman that young.

According to the hockey-reference database, the only defenseman that has scored more goals at that age through their first two seasons is Phil Housley.

After winning the Atlantic Division in 2015-16 and having a busy offseason that saw them add Keith Yandle and Jason Demers to their defense, the Panthers look like they could be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference this season and Ekblad is going to be a major part of that.

Ilya Bryzgalov’s Canada – Russia take is the best take

VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 24:  Ilya Bryzgalov #30 of Russia comes into the game against Canada during the ice hockey men's quarter final game between Russia and Canada on day 13 of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics at Canada Hockey Place on February 24, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
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Admit it: you miss Ilya Bryzgalov.

Saturday presented the latest reminder that hockey’s just a little less fun thanks to the absence of Mr. Universe, as Bryzgalov regaled ESPN’s Craig Custance with his impeccable analysis of the drubbing Russia received from Canada during the 2010 Olympics.

You see, Breezy initially described Canada’s start “like gorillas out of a cage,” but upon further reflection …

… Well:

“Not gorillas,” Bryzgalov said. “More like Orcs from ‘The Hobbit.’ You watch that movie, right? Big. Mean. Scary.”

Fantastic.

Now, it’s possible that Bryzgalov meant “Lord of the Rings” rather than “The Hobbit,” but both series featured “Big. Mean. Scary” orcs, so who knows:

Really though, it paints quite the picture. Imagine, for a moment, Shea Weber or Brent Burns decked out like that one especially big, mean and scary orc. One can only imagine the Photoshop masterpieces that may sprout up thanks to the vivid story Bryzgalov told.

***

Now, there are some great bits leading up to Saturday’s Canada – Russia semifinal. PHT should have more to come tonight.

Sportsnet looked back at a moment in which a seemingly sure-thing Canadian team hit a brick wall in a Russian opponent. NHL.com provided a fascinating look at Mike Babcock and his quest for control. TSN captures a moment of sorts for Steven Stamkos.

There’s a lot of great stuff out there, but Bryzgalov’s takes are truly one of a kind, and they’ve been truly missed.

Bruins’ Vatrano to miss three months with foot injury

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 17:  Frank Vatrano #72 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the third period against the San Jose Sharks at TD Garden on November 17, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Sharks defeat the Bruins 5-4.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Frank Vatrano is supposed to be one of the young players the Boston Bruins will be counting on this season to help replace some of the offense they lost when Loui Eriksson signed a free agent contract with the Vancouver Canucks.

Unfortunately for the Bruins they will have to wait a few months before he gets an opportunity to make an impact.

The team announced on Saturday that Vatrano is going to require surgery to repair torn ligaments in his foot and is expected to miss at least three months.

General manager Don Sweeney said that Vatrano was injured in his training in preparation for the team’s training camp.

Vatrano appeared in 39 games for the Bruins in 2015-16 season and scored eight goals, including a hat trick in an early season win against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He spent the rest of his season playing for Providence of the American Hockey League where he scored a league leading 36 goals in only 36 games. Just for some perspective on that goal total, only one other player in the league scored 30 goals for the entire season, and that was Chris Bourque who scored 30 in 72 games.

Star-crossed: Cody Eakin to miss about six weeks

NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 02: Cody Eakin #20 of the Dallas Stars waits for the face off against the New Jersey Devils on January 2,2016 at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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The Dallas Stars’ run of injuries hasn’t ended even with the World Cup of Hockey winding down.

Training camps are starting up, so that’s a new way that the team can encounter bad luck, and it didn’t take much time for the hits to keep coming. Cody Eakin suffered a lower-body injury that’s apparently bad enough to sideline him for six weeks, according to the team.

That same announcement revealed that Devin Shore will miss “some time.”

Before that bad Eakin news leaked through, head coach Lindy Ruff tried to spin the injuries as positively as possible, as the Dallas Morning News noted.

“We’ve got a little bit of the injury bug hitting us, but you’ve got to get through it,” Ruff said. “I’d rather have it now than three or four weeks from now.”

In case you’re wondering, Ruff didn’t pass around bubble wrap to everyone in the Stars’ locker room after making that statement.

Eakin has only missed four games over the last four seasons, so this injury bug is becoming quite the epidemic for the Stars.

Related: Stars might be the biggest losers of the World Cup