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.

The Ducks look pretty mighty right now after six consecutive wins

Anaheim Ducks v Los Angeles Kings
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In what should be a disturbing trend for every other team in the Pacific Division, the Anaheim Ducks have now won six consecutive games, and eight of their last 10.

After dominating the shot clock for pretty much all of Friday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes, the Ducks completely took over on the scoreboard in the third period. It seemed like only a matter of time before a breakthrough would occur.

Just 24 hours after beating the L.A. Kings, the Ducks earned a 5-2 victory over the Coyotes.

Ryan Kesler has eight points in his last six games. Corey Perry has seven points in his last six games. Patrick Maroon, who had only eight points all season prior to Friday, had a three-point night versus Arizona.

Again. Bad news for every other team in the Pacific.

The Ducks now have a three-point lead over the Coyotes for third place in the division. They’re one point back of second-place San Jose and eight back of division-leading L.A.

As for everyone else, more specifically the Canucks, Flames and Oilers, well it might be time to start focusing more on the upcoming trade deadline and, beyond that, the draft.

The Ducks had a terrible start to this season, one that started with so much hype about a team seen as an immediate Stanley Cup contender for 2015-16.

Count Corey Perry as one who believes those early season struggles could pay off at playoff time.

And remember all of that talk in October about Bruce Boudreau perhaps at the end of his days as coach of the Ducks?

At the end of October, GM Bob Murray vowed to be patient despite such a poor start just a few months after being one win away from the Stanley Cup Final last June.

There is still plenty of hockey remaining in the regular season. The Ducks have 32 games remaining on their schedule. But it appears that patience Murray showed in October is paying off.

Jets can’t complete the comeback after miserable start against Hurricanes

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WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) Phillip Di Giuseppe, Andrej Nestrasil, Jordan Staal and Justin Faulk scored in the first period, and the Carolina Hurricanes held on for a 5-3 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night.

The Hurricanes scored four times on their first nine shots, taking a 4-0 lead just 10:04 into the game. Nestrasil added another goal in the third period, and Cam Ward made 33 saves. Staal and Joakim Nordstrom each had a pair of assists.

Alexander Burmistrov, Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler scored for Winnipeg.

Jets rookie Connor Hellebuyck allowed three goals while facing only six shots before being replaced by Michael Hutchinson after Staal’s power-play goal just 4:33 in. Hutchinson, who hadn’t played since a 4-1 loss in Anaheim on Jan. 3, finished with 21 saves.

The loss wrapped up Winnipeg’s season-high six-game homestand, which included just one victory.

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Carolina’s first goal came after the Jets turned over the puck and Di Giuseppe scored on a sharp-angled shot at 1:43.

Hellebuyck then kicked out a bad rebound and Nestrasil tallied his 16th goal of the season in his 100th NHL game from almost the same angle at 3:05.

With Byfuglien in the penalty box for delay of game, Staal’s shot beat Hellebuyck, ending the young goalie’s night.

Faulk made it 4-0 when his team’s third shot at Hutchinson went between his pads at 10:04.

The Jets came out at a faster, more aggressive pace to start the second period and it paid off with 1:25 remaining.

Andrew Copp and Chris Thorburn were battling a pair of Hurricanes behind the net when Thorburn poked the puck out front as he was falling and Burmistrov got his sixth goal of the season.

Ladd, who hit the post late in the second period, banged home a rebound with Hurricanes winger Jeff Skinner off for hooking at 9:07 of the third.

Byfuglien one-timed a pass from Nikolaj Ehlers that Wheeler deflected to make it 4-3 with 6:12 remaining.

Nestrasil sealed the win with his second goal at 18:40.

NOTES: Ehlers’ assist extended his point streak to six games, with four goals and four assists. … Winnipeg heads out for a two-game road trip starting in Colorado on Saturday. Carolina visits Montreal on Sunday.

Video: Zatkoff robs Condra with sprawling paddle save

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All Erik Condra had to do was lift the puck off the ice.

He didn’t, and as a result, he was robbed by sprawled out Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Jeff Zatkoff, who made a spectacular desperation save with the paddle of his stick on the Lightning forward.

The save occurred just past the midway point of the third period. That kept the Penguins in the game, down by a goal at the time.

However, the Penguins couldn’t get the equalizer. The result was a 6-3 loss for Pittsburgh, as Tampa Bay scored twice later in the period.

Defending Eastern Conference champion Bolts continue hot streak

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Remember those distractions the Tampa Bay Lightning had to endure?

— The future of captain Steven Stamkos, who is a pending unrestricted free agent and whose contract situation has been an ongoing discussion point for months now.

Jonathan Drouin‘s camp publicly requesting a trade, then having the 20-year-old forward sent to the minors and then suspended by Tampa Bay, etc.

Well, through it all, the defending Eastern Conference champions have emerged and are now one of the hottest teams in the National Hockey League . Since the start of January, the Bolts have lost twice. In 13 games.

They continued their hot streak Friday, defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins — another of those teams on an impressive streak — by a final score of 6-3, with Tyler Johnson leading the way with three points. He was one of six Tampa Bay players to record a multi-point night.

Penguins’ goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was pulled in the second period after allowing four goals on 14 shots.

Tampa Bay is now five points behind the Florida Panthers for first in the Atlantic Division.

For the Penguins, the loss keeps them on the outside of the playoff bubble for now. They remain one point back of New Jersey for the final Wild Card spot in the East.

Sidney Crosby extended his point streak to nine games. He also has goals in five straight and is one point shy of 900 for his career.