Thursday night’s controversial hit: Bruin Daniel Paille could face suspension for hit on Star Ray Sawada

For two teams who rarely see each other considering the fact that they play in other conferences, there certainly was a lot of anger on display between the Boston Bruins and Dallas Stars on Thursday night. After all, the two teams engaged in a dizzying three fights in the game’s first four seconds.

The probability of bad blood boiling during their next game is pretty high too, as the two teams will have another violent moment to focus on. Bruins forward Daniel Paille nailed Stars right wing Ray Sawada with a blindside check that former PHT editor Brandon Worley called “one of the worst hits” of the 2010-11 season.

(Click that link for video of the hit. We will try to pass along one of our own as soon as possible.)

Team-related bloggers often disagree about controversial hits like these, but SBN’s Boston Bruins blog Stanley Cup of Chowder also labeled it a blindside hit and wonders if a suspension is coming for Paille. The blog also notes that Paille’s match penalty was downgraded to a game misconduct after the game, something that might factor slightly into whether or not the league will take action for the stomach-turning blow.

Considering the trouble Marc Savard is facing thanks in large part to Matt Cooke’s blindside hit from last season, the Bruins are one of the last teams who should complain if some serious discipline comes from this situation. To their credit, the Bruins expressed regret about it, admitting it was a bad hit.

“I mean, it’s a bad hit, right?” Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference said. “That’s what they’re trying to get rid of. You can’t be a hypocrite and complain about it when it happens to you and say it’s fine when your teammate does it. It is a head that they’re trying to get rid of.

“You hear it from every player after they do it, they feel bad,” Ference added. “I just talked to Danny and he feels bad. It’s tough. That backchecking forward, to make those kinds of hits now, it’s so hard to do it in a clean fashion with the new rules. It is what it is. He hurt the guy and I’m sure he’ll have a little conversation [with the league].”

Sawada came down the middle of the Bruins zone and was leaning slightly forward trying to maintain control of the puck when Paille came from his right and delivered a lateral hit with the shoulder. Sawada went down hurt and did not return to the game.

It’s not known at this time if Sawada will miss any time from the hit. It’s sad that it’s a bright side when a player doesn’t need stretcher, but it appeared that he was at least able to skate off the ice after the collision.

We hate to fuel conspiracy theories here, but one wonders if the Bruins’ status as an “Original Six” franchise along with the built-in doubts that come from Colin Campbell’s son playing for the B’s will factor into the suspension (or the outrage that would come from Stars fans if nothing is done).

Either way, we’ll keep you updated in regard to the latest controversial hit in a disturbing series of dirty checks.

Kesler believes Ducks are ‘too good to not be in the playoffs’

Shane Doan, Ryan Kesler
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It’s been 24 games for the Anaheim Ducks, more than a quarter of the season, and still they’re having trouble winning.

Friday against Chicago, they surrendered two goals in the last two minutes of regulation and lost in overtime.

Currently, the Ducks sit five points out of a playoff spot with a record of 8-11-5.

Still, forward Ryan Kesler is confident they’ll find a way into the postseason.

“If we keep playing like we are, we’re going to get into the playoffs — this team is too good to not be in the playoffs,” Kesler told The Province ahead of tonight’s home game versus Vancouver.

“We had a bad start and, to be honest, some guys weren’t ready to start the season. There’s a lot of hockey to be played and we’re ready for the challenge.”

To match the 45-30-7 record the Flames squeaked into the playoffs with last year, the Ducks would need to go 37-19-2 over their next 58 games.




Depends who you ask.

Anaheim’s playoff chances will depend a lot on how Pacific Division teams like San Jose, Arizona, and Vancouver finish. The Ducks may need to leapfrog two of those three to get in.

Yes, there’s always the chance four teams from the Pacific qualify, because it’s not like Colorado, Winnipeg, and Minnesota don’t have their problems. Even Nashville you have to wonder about lately. Heck, even Chicago isn’t assured of anything yet.

Bottom line, though, the Ducks have dug themselves a hole, and it’s starting to look a lot like the one the Kings dug last year.

In the NHL, even good teams don’t always climb out.

Related: Boudreau does the playoff math, and it’s no ‘easy task’ for Ducks

Video: Ryan Suter doesn’t seem very happy with his coach


As you can see in the video, apparently Ryan Suter doesn’t like being paired with fellow lefty Jonas Brodin.

The Wild defenseman rather openly questioned the coaching staff’s decision-making today after practice.

“Yeah, I don’t know what they’re thinking,” said Suter. “I need to play with a right-handed defenseman. To give me more options. Neutral zone. Offensively. And even coming out of the D zone, it’s not fair to put a guy on his off side.”

Suter didn’t know if the pairings were just for practice or not. The Wild play tomorrow in Chicago. Minnesota has just one win in its last seven games.

Suter also had something to say about that.

“It does no good to pout and get pissed off at each other,” said Suter. “You’ve got to come together and dig out of this. Now’s when you need leadership more than ever. It’s easy to be a coach and a leader when things are going good.”

Yeo, by the way, has not been very happy with the Wild lately.  In fact, one could go so far as to say he’s been acting pretty “pissed off.”

For example, at today’s practice:

The Star Tribune has more on what went down today.

Yeo, you may recall, went a little “nuts” during a Wild practice last season.

Goalie nods: Sparks to make NHL debut for Leafs

Garett Sparks

We already knew this yesterday, but in case you missed it, Garret Sparks will make his NHL debut in goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight against Edmonton.

Sparks, 22, has been excellent in the AHL this season, going 8-2-1 with a .938 save percentage. He spent most of last season in the ECHL, where he also posted good numbers.

Sparks is getting the nod tonight because James Reimer is hurt and Jonathan Bernier has been struggling badly.

“He’s got an opportunity like lots of kids have had before him and it’s up to him to grab it,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock said, per “He’s got the [second-best] save percentage in the AHL and he’s winning all the time down there. Obviously we’re in need of some saves and we’ll have to play well in front of him for sure. But it’s an opportunity for him.”

Bernier, meanwhile, will have to sit and watch. The 27-year-old has allowed at least four goals in four of his last five starts. His save percentage has fallen all the way to .888.

Anders Nilsson will be in net for the Oilers.


Cam Ward for the Hurricanes. Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers, who will try not to rely on him so much.

Semyon Varlamov for the Avs. Thomas Greiss for the Isles.

— The Canucks aren’t saying if it’ll be Ryan Miller of Jacob Markstrom. For the Ducks, it’ll be John Gibson.

Vigneault: ‘After three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention’

Alain Vigneault

Alain Vigneault has maintained for much of the season that the New York Rangers needed to play better.

The head coach said it a week ago, after the Blueshirts had beaten the Predators, 3-0, despite getting outshot, 31-19.

He’d said it a couple of weeks before that, after they’d beaten the Hurricanes in very similar fashion. (Final score: 3-0. Shots: 33-23 for Carolina.)

But as long as the Rangers kept winning, it was tough, according to Vigneault, to get the message across.

“Sometimes, the results might be going your way, so when you’re pointing out certain things, it might be a little bit more challenging for them to understand because the results are so positive,” Vigneault said, per the New York Post.

“But after three losses in a row, I think we’ve got everybody’s attention.”

Derek Stepan‘s injury — he’ll miss 4-6 weeks with broken ribs — has no doubt captured their attention as well. (Oscar Lindberg will center Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast tonight at home to Carolina.)

The Rangers also play Wednesday, in Brooklyn against the Islanders (on NBCSN).