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 Buzzer: McDavid dominates; Fleury’s unlucky return

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Player Of The Night: Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers have at least started to show some signs of life in recent games. They were shutout on Sunday night in Toronto, but sandwiched around that game were a convincing 6-2 win in Montreal and then a thoroughly dominating 7-2 win in Columbus on Tuesday night that left Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella completely speechless.

Leading the way for the Oilers was captain Connor McDavid as he went off with a four-point night.

The four points are a season high for him and the fifth time this season he has recorded at least three points.

That performance gives him 39 points in 31 games on the season and currently has him third in the NHL scoring race, three points behind Tampa Bay Lightning teammates Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos.

Marc-Andre Fleury Probably Deserved Better In His Return To The Lineup

Marc-Andre Fleury made is return to the Vegas Golden Knights net and looked great, stopping 35 of the 37 shots he faced. Unfortunately that was not enough to get Vegas a win as they fell in a shootout to the Carolina Hurricanes, 3-2.

One of those two shots in regulation that beat him? It was this.

That is unfortunate.

Still, that is another point for Vegas as they continue their push for a playoff spot in the Western Conference during their inaugural season in the NHL.

Highlight Of The Night

The Philadelphia Flyers were 4-2 winners over the Toronto Maple Leafs and have now, suddenly, won four games in a row following a 10-game losing streak.

They picked up the winner on Tuesday thanks to this goal that featured a crazy between-the-legs pass.

Highlight Of The Night Part Two

Now let us take a look at Johnny Gaudreau from the Calgary Flames. This came in a losing effort in the shootout but this is still a slick move. Maybe illegal? Either way, it counted.

Factoid(s) Of The Night

— By stopping all 32 shots he faced against the St. Louis Blues, Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy picked up his 20th win of the season. He is just the sixth goalie in NHL history to win at least 20 games within his first 25 starts of a season. [NHL Public Relations]

Matt Cullen scored his 250th career goal in the Minnesota Wild’s 2-1 shootout win over the Calgary Flames, making him the 29th American-born player in NHL history to reach that mark. [Minnesota Wild PR]

— Carolina Hurricanes goalies Cam Ward recorded his 300th career win on Tuesday night in their 3-2 shootout win over the Vegas Golden Knights. He is the fifth active goaltender to reach that mark. [NHL Public Relations]

Scores

Buffalo Sabres 3, Ottawa Senators 2

New Jersey Devils 5, Los Angeles Kings 1

Philadelphia Flyers 4, Toronto Maple Leafs 2

Washington Capitals 5, Colorado Avalanche 2

Edmonton Oilers 7, Columbus Blue Jackets 2

Tampa Bay Lightning 3, St. Louis Blues 0

Minnesota Wild 2, Calgary Flames 1

Chicago Blackhawks 3, Florida Panthers 2

Carolina Hurricanes 3, Vegas Golden Knights 2

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Vasilevskiy shines again as Lightning take top spot in NHL

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Tuesday’s game in St. Louis was a showdown featuring the top two teams in the NHL.

In the end it was the Lightning picking up the 3-0 win to extend their current winning streak to five games and to reclaim sole possession of the No. 1 spot in the NHL.

Their win improves them to 22-6-2 on the season and puts them two points ahead of the Blues despite having played two fewer games.

It was another impressive showing for Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy who has been one of the underrated stars of this year’s Lightning team. Most of the attention has been directed to forwards Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov (and deservedly so!) but let’s not lose sight of the fact that Vasilevskiy, in his first full season as the Lighting’s full-time starter, has been one of the best goalies in the league so far.

Tuesday’s game was his third shutout of the season, and after his 32-save performance against the Blues his .933 save percentage is among the best in the NHL, while his 20 wins (in only 25 starts) are tops in the league. Nobody else in the league has more than 17.

While Vasilevskiy was shining in net again, Kucherov scored his 21st goal of the season to move back into a tie with Alex Ovechkin for the top spot in the league. It was also his 42nd point which moved him into a tie with Stamkos for the league lead.

Brayden Point also continued his breakout season by opening the scoring with his 13th goal of the season. He also added an assist on Tyler Johnson‘s third period goal.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

John Tortorella had no time for questions after blowout loss (Video)

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Since being hired by the Columbus Blue Jackets John Tortorella has seemed to be a kinder, gentler coach.

The blow ups and battles with the media don’t seem to happen as much. We don’t get as many rants.

He just does not seem as angry all the time.

Losing 7-2 at home to the Edmonton Oilers, however, might change a few things.

That it was happened to the Blue Jackets on Tuesday night and Tortorella was in no mood to answer question about the game.

His press conference consisted of him stepping to the podium, saying there is no point in answering questions about the game, then leaving.

Here it is in all of its glory.

The only question we have: Is this shorter than the night he said the New York Rangers “sucked from head to toe?”

(Oddly enough, that game was also against the Edmonton Oilers).

That press conference lasted, roughly, 14 seconds from the time he started talking until the time he walked away (and also included the line “I know you have a job to do”).

Tonight’s comes in at just around 12 seconds. So we might have a record for the shortest John Tortorella press conference of all time.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Former NHL defenseman Zarley Zalapski dies at 49

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CALGARY, Alberta (AP) Former NHL defenseman Zarley Zalapski has died at age 49, according to the Calgary Flames. No cause of death was given.

Zalapski, a native of Edmonton, played 637 NHL games for Calgary, Pittsburgh, Hartford, Montreal and Philadelphia from 1987 to 2000.

He was with the Flames from 1993 to 1998.

“We are proud that Zarley wore the Flames jersey, made Calgary his home following his playing career, represented our alumni executive and we will always remember him as a member of the Flames family,” Flames president and chief executive officer Ken King said Tuesday in a statement.

“This is a terrible loss of a man with great character who truly loved the game of hockey. We express our sincere condolences to the Zalapski family.”

Zalapski was a member of the Canadian team that finished fourth in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.

He had 99 goals, 285 assists and 684 penalty minutes in the NHL. Zalapski was named to the all-rookie team in 1989 and participated in the NHL All-Star Game in 1993.

Zalapski played stints in Austria and Switzerland after his NHL career and appeared in 11 games for the United Hockey League’s Kalamazoo Wings in 2004-05.

He was the fourth overall pick by the Penguins in the 1986 entry draft.