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.

Video: Drouin equalizes, but Rust strikes again 30 seconds later

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Bryan Rust is really having himself a series.

After opening the scoring in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, Rust took matters into his own hands after Jonathan Drouin evened the score for Tampa Bay, notching his second goal of the game — just 30 seconds after Drouin scored — to put Pittsburgh back out in front, 2-1.

Before digging into the Rust goal (posted above), let’s take a moment to appreciate Drouin’s snipe, one that whizzed by Pittsburgh netminder Matt Murray:

Now, back to Rust.

With that second goal he’s now racked up eight points for the playoffs, just three back of the 11 he put up over the course of the entire regular season. The former Notre Dame standout has become a major storyline, and now sits tied with Patric Hornqvist for the team lead in even-strength playoff goals.

Not bad for a guy that spent a fair chunk of the year in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, eh?

Video: Rust opens scoring in Game 7

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What an Eastern Conference Final for Bryan Rust.

Rust scored his second goal of the series — and third point in as many games — to open the scoring on Friday night, giving the Penguins a 1-0 lead over the Lighting at Consol.

After scoring just 11 points during the regular season, Rust — in just his second season at the NHL level — now has seven points in 16 playoff games, and has emerged as a vital bottom-six contributor in the process.

Chris Kunitz and Evgeni Malkin notched assists on Rust’s goal, which came early in the second period. The Pens out-shot the Bolts 8-5 in the first period, but were unable to get one past Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Oh, and speaking of Kunitz, he’s also produced extremely well in this series — he now has six points in his last five games.

Shock of Lightning: Stamkos will play

Steven Stamkos
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He’s in.

As if Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final couldn’t get any more dramatic, it has — Tampa Bay captain Steve Stamkos, who hasn’t played since Mar. 31, will make his playoff debut against the Penguins tonight.

Stamkos underwent vascular surgery in early April to correct a blood clotting issue, and has remained on blood thinners ever since. While there’s been no confirmation he’s off medication, he did tell Sportsnet he’d be able to return to the lineup once he was.

More:

Stamkos reiterated that he’s still on the same prescription of blood thinners he was given earlier this month. He takes a 12-hour dosage, twice a day, and it has been suggested to him that once he is cleared to stop taking the medication, Stamkos conceivably could return to the Lightning lineup almost immediately.

That’s why I’m trying to stay in shape,” he said.

Per NHL.com, Stamkos took the warmup and participated in line rushes centering Ondrej Palat and Ryan Callahan.

It’s been exactly eight weeks since Stamkos played his last game. At the time of his diagnosis, the Lightning said his timetable for recovery was 1-3 months.

To say his return will be a boost is a major understatement. Aside from the emotional factor, Stamkos led the Bolts in goals this year, with 36, and would presumably spark a power play that’s gone just 2-for-12 in the series.

 

Drama builds as Stamkos takes Game 7 warmup

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 26:  Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 26, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Lightning shutout the Devils 4-0.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Steve Stamkos took the team bus to tonight’s Eastern Conference Game 7 in Pittsburgh. As TVA noted, it was the first time he’s arrived early for a game in these playoffs.

In his pregame presser, Bolts head coach Jon Cooper refused to answer any questions about Stamkos’ availability.

And then Stamkos took the warmup.

As such, the drama surrounding Tampa Bay’s captain has reached an all-time high. Stamkos, who’s been out of the lineup since early April due to blood clots, looks as though he’s on the verge of an emotional comeback as the Lightning try to win an ECF Game 7 — on the road — for a second consecutive season.

“If Stamkos is in the lineup, it’s our best foot forward,” Cooper said. “If he’s not in the lineup, it’s because he wasn’t eligible to play.”

No word if No. 91 is still on the blood thinning medication he’s been taking since undergoing vascular surgery on Apr. 4.

Stay tuned…