Brian Elliott, Alex Burrows, Chris Neil, Chris Phillips

Did Milan Michalek slew foot Keith Ballard? Accusations abound

Last night the Vancouver Canucks lost the services of defenseman Keith Ballard after an incident with Ottawa’s Milan Michalek.  Ballard and Michalek were jostling for the puck when they skated past where the puck was. The two were tied at the hip and as Michalek went to turn to chase the puck, Ballard stuck with him as they both went down to the ice. Ballard’s leg folded up underneath him and he stayed down on the ice writhing in pain.

Ballard’s injury is bad enough to send him off to get an MRI to see what the damage is and rumors are abounding that Ballard could miss up to a month of action. Michalek says there was no intent to hurt anyone one on the play and that he had trouble sleeping because of the end result of the play. If he’s being insincere he’s doing a heck of a job selling it.

When a play like that happens, people get upset and when it happens in Vancouver, fans and team executives alike get angry. Michalek and the Senators claim there was no ill intent, but Canucks GM Mike Gillis feels otherwise as he told Team 1040 radio today.

“The play, in my opinion, was a violation of the rules, one that is not a highly respected play at this level,” the Canucks GM said. “The puck wasn’t near Keith when it happened and I’m not happy.”

Gillis isn’t the only one calling it a dirty play and some are even going as far to call it a slew foot. Gillis is right as the puck was gone from the play, but if you can tell from the video (which you can see here on YouTube) whether or not Michalek was doing that with ill intent, then a job as a mind reader is in your future.

Plays like this do happen and in this case it appears Michalek was just too tied up with Ballard to get free. This is the sort of situation where it might look like a slew foot but it’s not one just because of the circumstances and physics involved in the play. For now, Canucks fans will drive themselves wild with speculation on how long Ballard will be out until tomorrow when the team finds out just how bad the damage is.

Struggling Sabre Tyler Ennis out with upper-body injury

Tyler Ennis, James Wisniewski
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Tyler Ennis can probably relate with the Buffalo Sabres’ opponent on Wednesday, as he’s struggling almost as much as the Nashville Predators.

Perhaps some of that has to do with health?

Whether that’s the case or not, Ennis is out for the Sabres tonight, as the team announced that he’s dealing with an upper-body injury.

The Buffalo News discussed Ennis’ struggles in this article.

“I’d say he’s pressing too much. You can’t make those plays in every situation and in every point you touch the puck,” Dan Bylsma said to the Buffalo News. “ … He’s just got to simplify his game. He is a special player who can make those plays, but he can’t be trying to do it every time he touches the puck.”

He’ll need to wait a while to start getting things together, anyway.

WATCH LIVE: Wednesday Night Rivalry (Flyers-Islanders; Blackhawks-Sharks)

Ryan White, Matt Martin
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You can check out tonight’s Wednesday Night Rivalry doubleheader on NBCSN, and you can also stream them online.

Here are the handy links for the two contests.

First, the New York Islanders host the Philadelphia Flyers.


After that, the Chicago Blackhawks visit the San Jose Sharks.


Braun out with upper-body injury; Zubrus to make Sharks debut

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The San Jose Sharks will be missing a top-4 defenseman tonight when they host the defending champs from Chicago.

Justin Braun has an upper-body injury. His status is considered day-to-day.

“Brauny has been one of our unsung heroes here through the first quarter of the season,” coach Peter DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “He’s played some outstanding hockey. So, we’re going to miss him, but it’s a great opportunity for Mueller and Tennyson and one of these guys to establish themselves. It’s a great opportunity for us to reward Dillon for how well he’s played.”

Against the Blackhawks, Brenden Dillon will take Braun’s spot on the top pairing alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic; Paul Martin and Brent Burns will stay together on the second pairing; and 20-year-old Mirco Mueller will skate with Matt Tennyson.

Mueller has played just four games for the Sharks this season. In his last game, Thursday in Philadelphia, he received only 9:13 of ice time.

Also tonight, new Shark forward Dainius Zubrus is expected to debut on the fourth line.

Related: Sharks sign Zubrus, because DeBoer

Johansen calls trade rumblings ‘weird,’ says relationship with Torts is ‘great’

Ryan Johansen
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One day after reports surfaced of Ryan Johansen being at the center of trade talks, all parties involved from Columbus did what they’re supposed to do — downplay the situation.

You can read the denials in full over at the Dispatch, but here’s the gist:

— Johansen said the rumors were “weird” and that he’s “never seen it before.” He also said there were no issues between him and head coach John Tortorella, calling the relationship “great.”

— GM Jarmo Kekalainen wouldn’t address the report, nor would Johansen’s agent, Kurt Overhardt.

— Johansen added he hasn’t spoken to any of Columbus’ management about the trade rumblings.

So there’s that. What’s next?

At this stage of the game, it’s hard not to think about another Overhardt client, Kyle Turris.

Turris, you’ll recall, spent four (mostly) stormy years with the Coyotes before his trade out to Ottawa was orchestrated. Turris eventually told GM Don Maloney “this is not going to work out” with the club, and he was gone.

So, consider the similarities now:

— Turris was 22 at the time of the trade, with four years and 137 games under his belt.

— Johansen is 23, with five years and 291 games.

— Both had contentious contract holdouts with their respective clubs.

— Both are Overhardt guys.

— The Turris trade happened after the Coyotes went from Wayne Gretzky to Dave Tippett as head coach.

— Johansen is already on his third head coach (Scott Arniel, Todd Richards, Tortorella).

For now, these are all coincidences (or a forced narrative, depending what you think of the author).

And, of course, the one big — big — difference between the two is that, at the time of his trade, Turris wasn’t as good or established a player as Johansen currently is. Therefore, logic suggests any Johansen trade would be a lot more blockbuster-y and, therefore, probably more complex.

And as we know, complex deals aren’t easy to pull off.