Gary Bettman

Gary Bettman, NHL Board of Governors discuss hits to the head, concussions

Concussions aren’t an issue that will go away over night. Even a significant rule change won’t curb them altogether, as the speed of the game and size of the players mean that there’s a certain amount of injuries that can be deemed a part of the sport.

That being said, the NHL should still do whatever it can to limit such injuries. A big part of stemming the tide is open communication and compiling information, so it’s no surprise that head injuries were a big topic of discussion at the NHL Board of Governors Meeting during this All-Star weekend.

Gary Bettman addressed the meetings and the league’s findings on such hits. Of course, he didn’t provide actual numbers on the issue to the media, so to some extent he could write his own narrative during the press conference.

So keeping in mind that he didn’t give concrete information, Bettman admitted that concussions increased this season but claimed that blindside hits are down. The NHL’s commissioner says that accidental hits have gone up substantially in 2010-11.

“It appears, and again I want to emphasize that it is a preliminary, the increase in concussions appear to be in the area of accidental and inadvertent situations as most did not involve any contact with the victim’s head by an opponent,” Bettman said prior to the Honda SuperSkills competition at the RBC Center on Saturday. “I’m not saying no concussions came from hits to the head, but it appears the increase is coming from somewhere else.”

Bettman said most of the concussions being analyzed this season are a result from when players collide with each other or when they “were hit legally and without head contact after which their heads have struck either the ice, the boards or the glass.”

He said that these accidental hits that cause concussions have increased man-games lost threefold.

Bettman, though, stressed that the new rule (Rule 48) that renders illegal any lateral or blindside hits where the head is the principal area of target has resulted in fewer concussions caused by blindside hits this season.

Brian Burke said that Sidney Crosby’s concussion dictated the focus on head injuries, stating that it wouldn’t be such a hot topic if Maple Leafs plugger Mike Brown was the biggest name dealing with such issues. While I agree that Crosby’s problems shined a harsh light on concussions, it’s silly to ignore the fact that head injuries are the focus of discussions in nearly every major sport – even “less violent” ones such as soccer and baseball.

Obviously this is far from the last we’ll hear of concussions, so we’ll let you know when/if big changes take place. In the mean time, take a look at video of Bettman’s press conference.

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Goalie nods: ‘The losses have gotten to’ Dubnyk, so Wild turn to Kuemper

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Devan Dubnyk has started Minnesota’s last four games — all of them losses — so in an effort to try and right the ship, head coach Mike Yeo is going with Darcy Kuemper against Dallas this evening.

“This has definitely not been Dubnyk’s fault,” Yeo said of the Wild’s losing skid, per the Pioneer Press. “Even watching his game and evaluating it closely afterwards, I’m not going to say he’s playing badly. He’s not. But you can tell he’s grinding right now like everybody. The losses have gotten to him.

“Kuemper has been part of this, but not to that level, so he’s probably got a little bit of a different mindset and a little bit of a fresher mind coming into the game.”

Kuemper has been pretty solid this year, going 5-2-4 with a .928 save percentage and 2.06 GAA. That said, he’s only made four appearances in 2016 and his last was a brief one, playing just over 11 minutes in relief against the Isles.

For Dallas, Kari Lehtonen is likely to get the start.

Elsewhere…

— No definitive announcements out of Boston, but Tuukka Rask is likely for the Bruins, and Jonathan Quick is likely for the Kings.

— It’s Roberto Luongo for the Panthers in Buffalo. Sabres are going with Robin Lehner.

Cory Schneider‘s going back-to-back for the Devils after stopping 35 shots in a loss to the Rangers on Monday. Cam Talbot starts for the Oilers.

John Gibson is not going back-to-back after getting shelled by Pittsburgh last night. Frederik Andersen starts in Philly, Steve Mason for the Flyers.

— Columbus will keep rolling with Joonas Korpisalo as it hosts the Islanders. Jaroslav Halak gets the nod after getting hooked against the Red Wings over the weekend.

Ben Scrivens will look to win his third game in a row when the Habs host the Bolts. Ben Bishop‘s in for Tampa Bay.

— Barry Trotz heads back to Nashville and will continue rolling with Braden Holtby in goal. Trotz’s former workhorse, Pekka Rinne, starts for the Preds.

— It’s Connor Hellebuyck versus Brian Elliott as the Blues host the Jets in St. Louis.

— Good matchup in Chicago tonight, as the in-form Corey Crawford starts for the ‘Hawks. The Sharks will counter with Martin Jones.

— After Ryan Miller started the last four, Jacob Markstrom goes for the Canucks in Colorado. The Avs are starting Semyon Varlamov.

— Fresh off today’s blockbuster Dion Phaneuf trade, the undermanned Leafs are going with James Reimer in goal in Calgary. The Flames will give Jonas Hiller another start after he beat Vancouver on Saturday night.

Here’s what TCF Bank Stadium will look like for Minnesota’s outdoor game

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What you’re looking at is an architectural rendering of TCF Bank Stadium for the upcoming outdoor game between the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, Feb. 21.

The current forecast for that day in Minneapolis is a high of 27° F and a low of 19° F, with only a 20 percent possibility of precipitation, i.e. snow.

Which is to say, that guy in the Toews jersey is gonna be cold. At least roll up your sleeves, man. Don’t be a hero. 

The game, scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET, will be broadcast live on NBC as part of Hockey Day in America, while Hockey Night In Canada and TVA Sports will have the action for the folks up north.

50 years ago today, the NHL’s ‘great expansion’ begins

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 15: The Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers fight during the first period in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center on April 15, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Penguins 8-4. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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“This is the year of the great expansion. For the first time, the league will be composed of twelve teams.”

Those were the words of former NHL president Clarence Campbell as he ushered in six new franchises to join the Original Six for the 1967-68 season.

We only mention this because it was 50 years ago today, in 1966, that the league awarded conditional teams to Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Minneapolis-St. Paul and St. Louis.

(To read more, click NHL.com’s anniversary piece. The Los Angeles Times also has a story on the birth of the Kings, while CSN Philly remembers the Flyers’ beginnings.)

For all you youngsters out there, San Francisco’s team, originally named the California Seals, ended up playing in Oakland, but not for long due to attendance issues. The franchise would move to Cleveland in 1976, where in 1978 it ceased operations and merged with the North Stars.

The North Stars also eventually relocated, though that didn’t happen until 1993 when they moved to Dallas. The expansion Wild were born a few years later.

Of the five surviving franchises of the “great expansion,” only the Blues have never won the Stanley Cup.

The Flyers were the first expansion team to hoist the Cup. They did it in 1974.

Related: Foley is ‘9.5’ out of 10 confident that NHL will expand to Vegas

Malkin (lower body) to miss rest of week

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Evgeni Malkin has missed Pittsburgh’s last three games, and now he’ll also miss at least the next two.

On Tuesday, head coach Mike Sullivan announced that Malkin will be held out for the remainder of this week to deal with his lower-body injury.

Malkin hasn’t played since registering two assists in a 6-5 win over Ottawa on Feb. 2, missing Friday’s 6-3 loss to the Bolts, Saturday’s 3-2 win over the Panthers and Monday’s big 6-2 whipping of Anaheim.

The Penguins next play on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN), then again on Friday versus the ‘Canes. It stands to reason Malkin could very well miss the Monday, Feb. 15 game against the Panthers as well, as the Pens would be on a mini two-game road swing through Carolina and Florida, returning back to Pittsburgh for a Feb. 18 home date against Detroit.

On the year, Malkin has 49 points in 49 games and had been producing exceptionally well prior to getting hurt, with 15 points in his last 13 games.