Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Islanders

Celebrating madness? Islanders holding watch party for replay of fight-filled February game vs. Pittsburgh

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Life for Islanders fans this summer hasn’t exactly been too fun. They’ve seen a referendum for a new arena get voted down by Nassau County voters, the team hasn’t made a big splash in free agency to make a big move towards improving in the Eastern Conference, and they’ve still got the Evgeni Nabokov situation to deal with. With that kind of action going on, you might get a little anxious for the season to start too.

The Isles are doing something good for their fans and hosting a watch party for the re-airing of one of their more notorious games from the past season: the February 11 9-3 win over Pittsburgh.

Wait… The Islanders are hosting a watch party for this game?

In case you’d forgotten, that game featured 342 combined penalty minutes including seeing Islanders goon forward Trevor Gillies fighting once early in the game and later elbowing Pens forward Eric Tangradi into oblivion. There was also the matter of Isles forward Micheal Haley dropping the gloves with Pens goalie Brent Johnson only to get interrupted by Pens forward Eric Godard who came off the bench to stand up for Johnson.

The end result of everything saw Gillies get suspended for nine games while Godard got the mandatory 10 game suspension for leaving the bench while the Islanders were fined $100,000 for the whole fiasco. Meanwhile, Penguins owner Mario Lemieux sounded off about the actions of the Islanders to the NHL and declared the whole thing to be its own disaster area.

Suffice to say, some Penguins fans are a bit annoyed about this whole thing. Enter the boys from The PensBlog. The PensBlog guys have made it their own mission to rip Gillies and the entire Islanders organization since this game and this Islanders watch party is in their sights as well.

Just a heads up, some of their language is a little “colorful” so if you’ve got delicate sensibilities, this is your warning.

Now, this kind of viewing-party idea is kind of cool in general.  And we’d actual tip our hats to the Isles organization for using social media to bring fans closer if it wasn’t to celebrate lunacy.  If they’re gonna circle-jerk to a run-of-the-mill 9-3 drubbing, we’d be all for it and not dip our toe into the water.

But celebrating the blatant attempts to injure in this game isn’t gonna fly.
And for the Islanders to be promoting it right on their website is beyond words.

As much as The PensBlog guys might upset you sometimes, they’re dead on about this. We understand that this game was a big, important moment for Islanders fans. They were sick of seeing their team getting pushed around and taken advantage of by the league for other, apparent misgivings and the Penguins (and officials) pushed the right buttons that night to send the team over the edge. This game was the fans’ “Network” moment where they say “they’re mad as hell and they’re not going to take this anymore.

Celebrating your team taking a stand is fine and it’s not the only time we’ve seen teams and fans take pride in an all-out bloodbath. These kinds of moments can unite fans with their teams. That said, you can’t help but feel this is a 1,000 different kinds of awkward given the circumstances. Tangradi suffered a concussion thanks to Gillies’ elbow while Gillies’ reputation in the league was destroyed after this incident and Brent Johnson served notice to the Islanders that he’s not to be trifled with.

Given the Islanders’ role in the brawl and the fact they were slapped with a huge fine for what went down, it seems wrong that they’re going along with hosting a party to re-watch the game. I understand why the Islanders are doing it and I understand why Penguins fans would be really annoyed about it… But this just feels uncomfortable.

Pavel Datsyuk will not play for Russia vs. Canada

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MAY 22:  Pavel Datsyuk #13 of Russia skates against USA at Ice Palace on May 22, 2016 in Moscow, Russia.  (Photo by Anna Sergeeva/Getty Images)
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Pavel Datsyuk will not play for Russia on Saturday night against Canada in their  World Cup semifinal game.

Datsyuk has been bothered by a lower body injury that also kept him out of their first round game against Finland. He had been a game-time decision leading up to the game, but did not take the ice for pre-game warmups.

It’s a big loss for Russia because Datsyuk is still their top-line center and had been skating on a line with Alex Ovechkin and Vladimir Tarasenko before the injury. He recorded two assists in his two games for Russia.

Washington Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov will center that line instead.

If Russia does not beat Canada on Saturday we could have very likely seen the last of Datsyuk on a North American hockey rink. Datsyuk decided to leave the NHL to return to Russia after spending 14 years with the Detroit Red Wings during a career that saw him win two Stanley Cups and score 314 goals. He was one of the best two-way players in the NHL during his career and one of the best ever

The winner of Saturday’s game will play the winner of Sunday’s Sweden-Team Europe semifinal in a best of three championship series.

Ekblad back on the ice for Panthers after World Cup injury

NASHVILLE, TN - JANUARY 30:  Aaron Ekblad #5 of the Florida Panthers poses for a 2016 NHL All-Star portrait at Bridgestone Arena on January 30, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Sanford Myers/Getty Images)
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The Florida Panthers had a bit of a scare during the 2016 World Cup when defenseman Aaron Ekblad, while playing for Team North America, was injured in a first-round game against Finland that kept him out for the remainder of the tournament.

On Saturday, Ekblad was back on the ice for the Panthers doing some individual workouts following the injury.

“Ekblad is going to be fine,” Panthers coach Gerard Galant said, via Alain Poupart of NHL.com.  “You see him out there skating already. I think it was a little scary, but he feels real good. He’s going to skate and see how he feels, but everything looks good.”

It was initially reported that Ekblad had a concussion, but it was later reported to be a neck injury.

The Panthers haven’t been overly concerned with the injury over the past week.

Ekblad, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft, has quickly become one of the franchise building blocks for a Panthers team that is on the rise in the Eastern Conference.

Still only 20 years old, he is already a top-pairing defenseman in the league and has scored 27 goals in his career, a number that is pretty much unheard of for a defenseman that young.

According to the hockey-reference database, the only defenseman that has scored more goals at that age through their first two seasons is Phil Housley.

After winning the Atlantic Division in 2015-16 and having a busy offseason that saw them add Keith Yandle and Jason Demers to their defense, the Panthers look like they could be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference this season and Ekblad is going to be a major part of that.

Ilya Bryzgalov’s Canada – Russia take is the best take

VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 24:  Ilya Bryzgalov #30 of Russia comes into the game against Canada during the ice hockey men's quarter final game between Russia and Canada on day 13 of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics at Canada Hockey Place on February 24, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
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Admit it: you miss Ilya Bryzgalov.

Saturday presented the latest reminder that hockey’s just a little less fun thanks to the absence of Mr. Universe, as Bryzgalov regaled ESPN’s Craig Custance with his impeccable analysis of the drubbing Russia received from Canada during the 2010 Olympics.

You see, Breezy initially described Canada’s start “like gorillas out of a cage,” but upon further reflection …

… Well:

“Not gorillas,” Bryzgalov said. “More like Orcs from ‘The Hobbit.’ You watch that movie, right? Big. Mean. Scary.”

Fantastic.

Now, it’s possible that Bryzgalov meant “Lord of the Rings” rather than “The Hobbit,” but both series featured “Big. Mean. Scary” orcs, so who knows:

Really though, it paints quite the picture. Imagine, for a moment, Shea Weber or Brent Burns decked out like that one especially big, mean and scary orc. One can only imagine the Photoshop masterpieces that may sprout up thanks to the vivid story Bryzgalov told.

***

Now, there are some great bits leading up to Saturday’s Canada – Russia semifinal. PHT should have more to come tonight.

Sportsnet looked back at a moment in which a seemingly sure-thing Canadian team hit a brick wall in a Russian opponent. NHL.com provided a fascinating look at Mike Babcock and his quest for control. TSN captures a moment of sorts for Steven Stamkos.

There’s a lot of great stuff out there, but Bryzgalov’s takes are truly one of a kind, and they’ve been truly missed.

Bruins’ Vatrano to miss three months with foot injury

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 17:  Frank Vatrano #72 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the third period against the San Jose Sharks at TD Garden on November 17, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Sharks defeat the Bruins 5-4.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Frank Vatrano is supposed to be one of the young players the Boston Bruins will be counting on this season to help replace some of the offense they lost when Loui Eriksson signed a free agent contract with the Vancouver Canucks.

Unfortunately for the Bruins they will have to wait a few months before he gets an opportunity to make an impact.

The team announced on Saturday that Vatrano is going to require surgery to repair torn ligaments in his foot and is expected to miss at least three months.

General manager Don Sweeney said that Vatrano was injured in his training in preparation for the team’s training camp.

Vatrano appeared in 39 games for the Bruins in 2015-16 season and scored eight goals, including a hat trick in an early season win against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He spent the rest of his season playing for Providence of the American Hockey League where he scored a league leading 36 goals in only 36 games. Just for some perspective on that goal total, only one other player in the league scored 30 goals for the entire season, and that was Chris Bourque who scored 30 in 72 games.