Former enforcer Georges Laraque sounds off on Rangers handling of Derek Boogaard

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When you’re born to be an enforcer in the NHL, it’s a role you carry out even after you’re out of the game. Former NHL enforcer Georges Laraque is fulfilling the role of enforcer once again today as he stood up for his fallen friend Derek Boogaard. Boogaard’s untimely passing on Friday has led to numerous outpourings of emotion and Laraque is taking a stand of a different kind for his friend.

Laraque today alleged that Boogaard’s team, the New York Rangers, handled him poorly and lobbed heavy accusations towards the team and coach John Tortorella regarding Boogaard’s ability to contribute with the team.

Etienne Laberge of Sun Media has the story from an upset Laraque.

“He was cleared to play at the end of the season and the team just told him to take the rest of the year off,” Laraque told NHL HOME ICE on SiriusXM Radio. “You know how much pressure that puts on a guy? He was ready to play with the contract he had and the team says, ‘It’s OK, just take the rest of the year off.’ On top of that, he told me his coach was not a big fan of him.

“I don’t want to insinuate anything that happened and the cause (of his death) or whatever but I would have been frustrated if I was in that situation. The fact he was inactive so long and those two incidents happened, it clearly didn’t help him.”

That’s a hefty accusation towards the Rangers who signed Boogaard to a four-year, $6.6 million contract before last season. If Boogaard was indeed healthy and eligible to return, the Rangers telling him to stay home makes the signing all the more questionable. As for why the Rangers may have sent him home, Laraque says that Tortorella did not think much of Boogaard as a contributor on the team.

“He told me John didn’t really like him as a player,” Laraque said. “I don’t know what John thought or what he said.

“All I know is that Derek told me he was cleared to play, to come back, that he wanted to play and the team told him to take the rest of the year off, to get ready for next year. He didn’t tell me who told him that, he just told me the team said that.”

If that’s the case it’s highly unfortunate and while we won’t know what caused Boogaard to pass away at the age of 28 for another couple weeks at most, these sorts of accusations aren’t likely to be met well by the Rangers.

Everyone is hurting here. Laraque is hurting because he lost a dear friend and the Rangers are hurting because Boogaard was a valued member of the organization off the ice at the very least. Sometimes when things like this happen and people are in pain, the accusations start going around during the grieving process.

The other side of this is just how useful is an enforcer when a team is desperate to make the playoffs? That’s the position the Rangers were in towards the end of the season and despite Boogaard having scored a goal this year, his role was very simple and one that didn’t demand many minutes on the ice. With how tight ice time was for the Rangers at the end of the year, it’s possible that Boogaard wouldn’t see the ice even without an injury anyhow.

Still, it’s a sad time for all those involved and this kind of drama is tough for all to take. Let’s hope that there’s nothing to be had here and it’s just the tough words of a heartbroken friend and colleague sounding off in frustration.

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.

Taylor Hall puts on a show as Devils end Kings’ winning streak

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The New Jersey Devils put an end to the Los Angeles Kings’ eight-game winning streak on Tuesday night with a rather convincing 5-1 win.

The Devils dominated in pretty much every aspect of the game, limiting the Kings to just 17 shots on goal and scoring five goals against a team that had not allowed more than two goals (and never more than three) during its winning streak.

The star of the game for the Devils was most certainly forward Taylor Hall.

Hall continued what could be a career year with a pair of goals, including this highlight reel play in the second period that saw him force a turnover, split through the Kings’ defense (including Drew Doughty!), then beat Jonathan Quick with a backhander.

With that performance on Tuesday Hall is now up to 11 goals and 31 total points on the season.

His first year with the Devils wasn’t quite what he or the team wanted, but he has bounced back in a big way this season. His performance, along with the development of young players Nico Hischier, Will Butcher, and Jesper Bratt have the Devils back on track to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-12 season.

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.