Chicago Blackhawks v San Jose Sharks - Game Two

Islanders suspend Evgeni Nabokov for not reporting to team

The ongoing saga of Evgeni Nabokov takes another turn today as the Islanders have suspended Nabokov for refusing to report to the team after claiming him on waivers on Saturday. Detroit signed Nabokov to a one-year contract on January 20th hoping to bring the former Sharks star goalie in as a backup to Jimmy Howard.

In the process of returning to the NHL from the KHL this year, Nabokov had to be put on waivers in order to play in the NHL. With Nabokov’s deal being for just $575,000 it was virtually assured that someone in need of goaltending help would grab him.

Now the drama gets interesting because either Nabokov can report and unhappily play for the Islanders and play out this season and walk away from the team as an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. If Nabokov chooses to stay home, however, the Islanders hold all the cards to his future. The team can then “toll” his contract until next season meaning that Nabokov will be Islanders property for the 2011-2012 season with the same $575,000 contract he initially signed with Detroit.

The situation is ugly either way as the Islanders could get an unmotivated and unhappy goalie to play for them this season making things in the locker room sketchy to say the least. Nabokov, meanwhile, could end up being stuck with a team that he doesn’t want to play for next season thus submarining his efforts to sign a more lucrative deal during the summer.

The clear best answer here is to have Nabokov report to the Islanders and just play out the string so to speak and hope that somehow the Isles might want to find a way to get him somewhere he’d rather be. Then again, Nabokov had to be aware of the possibility he might not end up with Detroit when he signed and that his ultimate wish to be a Red Wing might not come true. If Nabokov is fine with that and doesn’t mind being a hold out then he’s certainly not going to get other teams excited about trying to acquire him for next season.

Things are never dull in Long Island it seems and this latest go-round with Nabokov and Isles GM Garth Snow (including both sides playing a bizarre game of phone tag) is a prime example of that. All the Isles want is for Nabokov is to come in and play for them while Nabokov wants nothing more than to never play for the Islanders. You’d hope there’s an easier way to go about this, but with the NHL’s CBA there isn’t. Instead of phone tag, they’re playing a game of chicken to see who moves first. If nothing else, the Islanders just pressed down the accelerator.

Capitals accuse Letang of leaving his feet, hitting Johansson in head

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Get this: the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins seem divided on the legality of Kris Letang‘s hit on Marcus Johansson.

(Take a moment to gather your thoughts amid this shocking revelation.)

You can watch the hit over and over in the video above. This post features some takes on that check, which the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly reviewing.

Generally speaking, the three things people discuss regarding the check is how late it might be, if Letang used his feet and if Johansson’s head was the principal point of contact.

Letang told his side of the story:

The Capitals disagree:

While Barry Trotz pleads the Fifth after his previous comments about Brooks Orpik‘s suspension:

No doubt about it, Letang’s status is the top story to follow in this series between Games 3 and 4. We’ll find out soon enough how it all shakes out.

Penguins ride Murray’s masterpiece to 2-1 series lead vs. Capitals

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If Marc-Andre Fleury suiting up bothers Matt Murray, then the rookie goalie channeled those feelings into a masterful performance on Monday.

The Washington Capitals absolutely dominated Game 3, but Murray was even better, stopping 47 shots as the Penguins stole one 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.

(Capitals fans might see some parallels to Washington’s Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers; they fell 2-0 despite a 44-11 shots on goal edge thanks to Michal Neuvirth‘s heroics.)

Murray stopped chance after chance before Alex Ovechkin finally broke through for his first goal of this series. Justin Williams then brought the Penguins’ lead down to 3-2 to make for a hold-your-breath final minute.

A driven Ovechkin and strong overall play from the Capitals (despite this defeat) aren’t the only reasons why Game 4 might present some twists.

First things first: Kris Letang might get suspended for Game 4 (if not for more than one game) thanks to this controversial check on Marcus Johansson.

Beyond that, there could be some bumps and bruises from this contest.

Bryan Rust left during the first period and didn’t return to the game after blocking a shot. Brian Dumoulin seemed shaken up after an Alex Ovechkin hit in the third period. The Capitals might have a player or two to look at, as well.

In other words, the Penguins could really lack for quality defensemen with Letang possibly suspended and possible injury absences for Dumoulin and Olli Maatta.

This series is living up to the hype … and really building up the hate.

Yes, NHL is reportedly looking at Letang’s hit on Johansson

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It remains to be seen if Kris Letang will get suspended for his hit on Marcus Johansson … and if he does, for how long.

(You can read initial reactions and some analysis about the specifics of the check vs. the one that got Brooks Orpik suspended here.)

There are a few things we do know already.

For one thing, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly looking into it.

Another factor that could help Letang avoid a suspension or limit the duration of supplemental discipline: Marcus Johansson returned during the second period.

In fact, Johansson delivered some hits on Letang.

There have been some nasty moments in Game 3, and more might be coming. The Penguins lead 2-0 with a few minutes remaining in the middle frame.

Kris Letang may face suspension for hit on Marcus Johansson

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Update: Reports indicate that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is indeed looking into the hit.

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As thrilling as this Pittsburgh Penguins – Washington Capitals series has been, it seems like every game presents another controversial hit.

Game 3’s most noteworthy entry (so far?) came when Kris Letang was whistled for interference on Marcus Johansson.

Penguins fans griped that Brooks Orpik didn’t get a major penalty for his hit on Olli Maatta … now Capitals fans likely feel the same about the check Letang delivered.

Watch it in the video above. Also, Stefanie “My Regular Face” has it in GIF form:

Things could get ugly in Game 3:

One factor in a suspension happening – or at least the duration of the suspension – would be what the point of contact was:

Also, lateness of the check:

The Penguins ended the first period up 2-0 against the Capitals, even though Washington played one of its best 20 minutes of the series. Expect more drama.

Update: The Penguins won the game 3-2.

Read reactions to the check here.