Simon Gagne, Mike Richards

Simon Gagne expects to enjoy successful reunion with Mike Richards in Los Angeles

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Whether the player sees it coming or not, being traded can often create a very uncomfortable transition. On the bright side, many of the players involved in this summer’s biggest deals could enjoy a slightly smoother transition since they’ll be reunited with former teammates.

It’s possible Jeff Carter is still a bit upset about being shipped from Philadelphia from Columbus, but former Flyers teammate R.J. Umberger might be able to show him the ropes in Ohio. Devin Setoguchi was elated when Dany Heatley told him that he would join him in Minnesota after the Wild completed a second blockbuster trade with San Jose.

Yet when you consider the best reunion from a pure chemistry standpoint, the Los Angeles Kings’ might have hit the jackpot by signing Simon Gagne and trading for Mike Richards. The two made their best music together in the 2008-09 season with Philly; Gagne scored 34 goals (matching his goal-scoring output from the last two seasons) while Richards scored a career-high 80 points.

Injury issues could plague Gagne and a different offensive system could foul things up for the both of them, but it’s tough to deny the wisdom of bringing the two back together. It’s a point that hasn’t been lost on Gagne, who discussed the reunion with Helene Elliott as he visited Los Angeles earlier this week.

“I had a lot of success with Mike in Philly for many years. It’s always a plus to have the chemistry building right away,” said Gagne, who will wear No. 12, which he has worn since childhood. “We didn’t play together last year, but a year is not too bad. … I’m sure we’ll have a chance to show what we can do and we will try to take that chance. We have a lot of other players offensively that I’m sure we could find chemistry with too.”

While the Washington Capitals’ mind-numbing bargain contract with Tomas Vokoun topped it soon after, the Kings’ deal with Gagne still ranks as one of the best free agent gambles of the 2011 off-season. Health is the biggest concern for Gagne, but he’s a natural goal scorer who has good speed and can play a decent defensive game to boot.

Plenty of people wonder if the Kings will be a genuine Stanley Cup contender in 2011-12. That might just happen if Gagne finds a good groove with Richards once again.

Capitals accuse Letang of leaving his feet, hitting Johansson in head

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Get this: the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins seem divided on the legality of Kris Letang‘s hit on Marcus Johansson.

(Take a moment to gather your thoughts amid this shocking revelation.)

You can watch the hit over and over in the video above. This post features some takes on that check, which the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly reviewing.

Generally speaking, the three things people discuss regarding the check is how late it might be, if Letang used his feet and if Johansson’s head was the principal point of contact.

Letang told his side of the story:

The Capitals disagree:

While Barry Trotz pleads the Fifth after his previous comments about Brooks Orpik‘s suspension:

No doubt about it, Letang’s status is the top story to follow in this series between Games 3 and 4. We’ll find out soon enough how it all shakes out.

Penguins ride Murray’s masterpiece to 2-1 series lead vs. Capitals

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If Marc-Andre Fleury suiting up bothers Matt Murray, then the rookie goalie channeled those feelings into a masterful performance on Monday.

The Washington Capitals absolutely dominated Game 3, but Murray was even better, stopping 47 shots as the Penguins stole one 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.

(Capitals fans might see some parallels to Washington’s Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers; they fell 2-0 despite a 44-11 shots on goal edge thanks to Michal Neuvirth‘s heroics.)

Murray stopped chance after chance before Alex Ovechkin finally broke through for his first goal of this series. Justin Williams then brought the Penguins’ lead down to 3-2 to make for a hold-your-breath final minute.

A driven Ovechkin and strong overall play from the Capitals (despite this defeat) aren’t the only reasons why Game 4 might present some twists.

First things first: Kris Letang might get suspended for Game 4 (if not for more than one game) thanks to this controversial check on Marcus Johansson.

Beyond that, there could be some bumps and bruises from this contest.

Bryan Rust left during the first period and didn’t return to the game after blocking a shot. Brian Dumoulin seemed shaken up after an Alex Ovechkin hit in the third period. The Capitals might have a player or two to look at, as well.

In other words, the Penguins could really lack for quality defensemen with Letang possibly suspended and possible injury absences for Dumoulin and Olli Maatta.

This series is living up to the hype … and really building up the hate.

Yes, NHL is reportedly looking at Letang’s hit on Johansson

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It remains to be seen if Kris Letang will get suspended for his hit on Marcus Johansson … and if he does, for how long.

(You can read initial reactions and some analysis about the specifics of the check vs. the one that got Brooks Orpik suspended here.)

There are a few things we do know already.

For one thing, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly looking into it.

Another factor that could help Letang avoid a suspension or limit the duration of supplemental discipline: Marcus Johansson returned during the second period.

In fact, Johansson delivered some hits on Letang.

There have been some nasty moments in Game 3, and more might be coming. The Penguins lead 2-0 with a few minutes remaining in the middle frame.

Kris Letang may face suspension for hit on Marcus Johansson

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Update: Reports indicate that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is indeed looking into the hit.

***

As thrilling as this Pittsburgh Penguins – Washington Capitals series has been, it seems like every game presents another controversial hit.

Game 3’s most noteworthy entry (so far?) came when Kris Letang was whistled for interference on Marcus Johansson.

Penguins fans griped that Brooks Orpik didn’t get a major penalty for his hit on Olli Maatta … now Capitals fans likely feel the same about the check Letang delivered.

Watch it in the video above. Also, Stefanie “My Regular Face” has it in GIF form:

Things could get ugly in Game 3:

One factor in a suspension happening – or at least the duration of the suspension – would be what the point of contact was:

Also, lateness of the check:

The Penguins ended the first period up 2-0 against the Capitals, even though Washington played one of its best 20 minutes of the series. Expect more drama.

Update: The Penguins won the game 3-2.

Read reactions to the check here.