Minnesota Wild v New York Islanders

Trevor Gillies returns from suspension, lays dirty hit on Cal Clutterbuck

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Last night saw the return of Islanders enforcer and all-around bad seed Trevor Gillies. Gillies missed the last nine games after being suspended for his part in the brawl that erupted between the Islanders and Penguins. Gillies was banned for delivering a disgusting elbow to the head of Penguins forward Eric Tangradi. Upon being removed from the game, Gillies stood at the exit door taunting Tangradi while he laid on the ice.

With that brand of charm and manner of play, Gillies returned to the ice against the Minnesota Wild. Early in the second period, Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck delivered a questionable hit to Isles rookie Justin DiBenedetto. After that hit, Gillies then checked Clutterbuck up high around his head unknowingly putting Clutterbuck down on the ice. Clutterbuck received a minor penalty for boarding DiBenedetto while Gillies received a five-minute major for checking from behind and a game misconduct. You can see video of the play here on YouTube.

In the video you can see that Gillies goes out of his way to hit Clutterbuck in the head. If Gillies feels like he was doing right by his teammate who had just taken an iffy hit, that’s his opinion. Gillies said as much afterwards.

“There was no intent to injure him. I saw him hit DiBo and I just made a hit on him. That was it.”

Of course, his way of meting out justice was completely wrong. Considering this was the perfect instance of a Rule 48 violation for a blow to the head, expect Colin Campbell to weigh in in a big way on this hit.

The key here, of course, is seeing if it’s right to separate the incident itself from the perpetrator. In this case, it’s virtually impossible to do that. Gillies has shown that he’s a heartless goon and has no qualms about delivering a hit that may or may not injure an opponent. He showed zero remorse in what he did to Eric Tangradi and while his quotes after tonight’s game show that he’s at least aware he made a mistake, you figure he’s saying all the right things so as to make it appear that he made a mistake.

On Versus,  Mike Milbury did not hold back in his thoughts on Trevor Gillies and what he brings to the ice in hockey.

“I love guys that play tough hockey but this is a guy that doesn’t get it. This is a guy that crosses the line and doesn’t know what’s appropriate and what’s inappropriate behavior in a hockey game and that’s a dangerous, dangerous thing. When you have guys like that it’s not just to win a hockey game, it’s to get rid of some personal demons that he has in his own background. It becomes scary.

“The league has to step in here and the Islanders general manger, the Islanders coach, and the Islanders owner have to figure this out. They’ve embarrassed themselves here one time too many. OK you have an incident, that happens from time to time, but Garth Snow should be embarrassed for his team and so should Jack Capuano. They happen to be friends of mine. I hope they get it and if they don’t get it, I hope the league gives it to them.”

If that wasn’t harsh enough, Milbury capped it off saying this:

“He’s not a hockey player. This guy is not a hockey player. Get him out of the league as soon as you can. When you have that, he’s not trying to play hockey, he’s trying to make a personal statement.”

Now the ball is in the court of Colin Campbell. Now he’s got a guy who is fresh off a nine game suspension for laying one scummy hit on an unsuspecting player’s head and in his first game back from that suspension, a suspension that was supposed to teach him a lesson about what not to do in the NHL, he goes out and does the same brand of thing that got him in trouble just two weeks ago.

Gillies is now a repeat offender and considering how harsh his first punishment was you’d have to think that this time around things would be about the same, if not worse, for Gillies. Of course, with  how fickle punishments end up being your guess is as good as ours  is as far as what will happen. He might get the book thrown at him and sat down for 15 games, or he might get the seemingly standard three or four games for violating Rule 48. The lack of black and white rulings in these matters make it impossible to figure it all out.

The league missed out on their chance to really send a message about reckless play before, whether or not they decide to heed Mario Lemieux’s words this time around will certainly put the league under the microscope when it comes to giving a damn about player’s safety and weeding out the bad seeds. The league cannot afford either from their own standpoint or a PR standpoint to come up light on this. Dropping the hammer on Gillies will send the right message.

Flames get Johnny Gaudreau back way ahead of schedule

CALGARY, AB - APRIL 5: Johnny Gaudreau #13 of the Calgary Flames in action against the Los Angeles Kings during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on April 5, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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Some good news if you’re a fan of the Calgary Flames.

Johnny Gaudreau, who missed 10 games with a finger injury, will be back in their lineup for Sunday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks.

The Flames forward was injured in a game against Minnesota on Nov. 15 (he was slashed by Eric Staal), and after he underwent surgery, the team announced that he’d be out six weeks.

In the end, he missed less than three weeks of action.

“I’m ready to play,” Gaudreau said, per NHL.com. “I think the finger’s healed up pretty well there. I’m just excited to get things going here.

“I think they did a great job with my finger and we did a great job rehabbing it. They keep tell me it’s going to be harder to break the nine other fingers than to re-hurt this one. It feels good. It feels good when I shoot. I’m excited to finally get out of there.”

He’ll be playing with some added protection, as Calgary’s equipment manager made this glove for him:

Before Gaudreau got hurt, the Flames had a 6-10-1 record. But thanks to improved team play and some strong performances from goalie Chad Johnson, they managed to go 6-3-1 in, while Gaudreau was out.

The 23-year-old has five goals and six assists in 17 games, but he had scored three goals in three games before getting hurt.

Related:

Gaudreau injury a reminder as to how star players are treated

Boudreau: Flames made “mountain out of a molehill” over Gaudreau slash

Garret Sparks plays for first time since being suspended by Maple Leafs

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 30:  Garret Sparks #31 of the Toronto Maple Leafs gets set to face the Edmonton Oilers in an NHL game at Air Canada Centre on November 30, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Oilers 3-0. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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Garret Sparks made waves for all the wrong reasons last week, as he was suspended by the Maple Leafs for remarks he made on social media.

Sparks officially made his return on Saturday night in the Marlies’ 3-2 loss to the Hartford Wolf Pack. He stopped 27 of 30 shots.

“It’s been a lot to deal with. I understand what I did,” Sparks said, per TSN.ca. “[The incident] wasn’t me. That’s not who I want to be known as, it’s not the image I want my reputation to have.

“I should know the difference between what I can and can’t say. It’s just holding myself to a higher standard of professionalism.”

The 23-year-old actually returned to the team on Tuesday, but didn’t play until yesterday.

With Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen dealing with an illness, the Leafs recalled Antoine Bibeau, which opened the door for Sparks to make his return.

Sparks has been limited to just five AHL games this year, but he was between the pipes for 17 NHL games in 2015-16.

‘We were awful’: Duchene calls out Avs after latest shutout loss

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 19:  Matt Duchene #9 of the Colorado Avalanche awaits a face off against the Edmonton Oilers at Pepsi Center on December 19, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche defeated the Oilers 5-1.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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The Colorado Avalanche are one of those teams that’s hard to figure out.

They have plenty of offensive talent on their roster, and going from Patrick Roy to Jared Bednar was supposed to help get the most out of their star players.

But through 23 games, that hasn’t been the case.

Going into Sunday’s action, they find themselves in the basement of the Western Conference with a 9-13-1 record.

It doesn’t help that they’ve had to deal with a number of injuries. They were dealt an even bigger blow on Saturday, when they announced that Erik Johnson (leg) would be out for six-to-eight weeks.

Gabriel Landeskog and Fedor Tyutin are also dealing with lower-body injuries.

“Injuries are no excuse, but it helps to have some of those guys in the lineup,” Bednar said, per the Denver Post. “You’re missing a pair on ‘D.’ I still can’t help but feel we have more to give. .. You still have to stick with it and work through it. That’s the only way you get out of it is to work out of it.”

Colorado had an opportunity to get things on track, but they finished their latest homestand with an 0-4-1 record. Yikes!

One of the biggest problems with this team is that they can’t seem to find the back of the net with any regularity.

No team has scored less times than the Avalanche, who are tied for last with a league-worst 49 goals for. They’ve also been shut out five times already in 2016-17.

Their power play was so bad against Dallas that Bednar decided to start the man-advantage with John Mitchell and Blake Comeau at one point.

“We were awful. I totally get why he did what he did,” forward Matt Duchene said after Saturday’s 3-0 loss to Dallas. “It’s frustrating. We’re just not executing right now. I think we’re overthinking things because we haven’t been winning.

“We’re not playing good hockey right now.”

With Corey Crawford out, ‘Hawks recall goalie Lars Johansson from AHL

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 17: Corey Crawford #50 of the Chicago Blackhawks follows the action against the Montreal Canadiens at the United Center on January 17, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Canadiens 5-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The Chicago Blackhawks were dealt a blow yesterday, when they announced that starting goalie Corey Crawford would miss two-to-three weeks after undergoing an appendectomy on Saturday.

With Crawford unavailable yesterday, Chicago was forced to look for an emergency backup in the Philly area. Ultimately, they settled on former temple goalie Eric Semborski.

On Sunday, they got their goaltending situation in order, as they recalled Lars Johansson from the AHL.

Johansson, 29, is in his first season in North America. He played the previous 10 years over in Sweden with Mora IK, Vasteras IK and Frolunda HC.

In the AHL, he’s posted a 6-7-1 record with a 2.63 goals-against-average and a .911 save percentage in 2016-17.

His numbers in the minors might not look good, but Johansson had the best goals-against-average (1.74) in the top league in Sweden last year.

The Blackhawks also sent forward Nick Schmaltz to the minors.

Schmaltz, who was Chicago’s first-round pick in 2014, made the team out of training camp, but has played limited minutes.

The 20-year-old has just one goal and three assists, while averaging 11:46 of ice time in 2016-17.

Playing a larger role with AHL Rockford should be good for his confidence.