Board of Governors meeting: Conditionally approve goal modifications, talk realignment

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The NHL’s Board of Governors gathered to discuss a handful of things that could help the game out in the long run and to help the league get straightened out with their conference alignment.

The league got down to matters on some of the things tested out during the NHL’s R&D camp this summer that saw tactics implemented to help officials both on the ice and in the replay booth make sure that a goal is actually a goal. The green verification line that sits a puck-width behind the red goal line in the net as well as thin mesh on top of the goals and a clear plastic skirt around the bottom of the net have been conditionally approved by the Board of Governors. The board will wait for approval from the NHLPA before going fully ahead with putting these new changes in place for this season.

As for changing the depth of the nets themselves, like the shallower nets used last night in Toronto, that will take approval from the competition committee to make that happen and should that be approved, it won’t happen until next season.

The bigger thing on the Board’s plate today, however, was discussion of realignment starting next season. The talk of realignment came up during the summer and much of that is in part thanks to the Thrashers moving to Winnipeg and adding another team to the west while three eastern located teams continue to play in the Western Conference. Detroit, Columbus, and Nashville are all seeking to find a way to the Eastern Conference next season and Wild owner Craig Leipold even may have tipped off what the NHL’s plans are to do it.

With the Board talking things over today, the clock is officially ticking until when we’ll see what the league comes up with as their solution to trying to keep everyone happy. Dan Rosen of NHL.com has the discussion.

It’s possible that the Board of Governors will discuss changing the structure of the conferences by creating four divisions of seven or eight teams. Columbus, Nashville and Detroit have reportedly expressed an interest in moving to the Eastern Conference.

Going back to a four division alignment would be another “turn back the clock” element by the NHL as that’s the setup the league had before switching to six divisions. The four division format also had the excitement of divisional playoffs with the top four teams in each division making the postseason and then squaring off against each other in the first two rounds of the playoffs. In those days, the schedule was also balanced and not overloaded with games against teams in the division. Rivalries were built in the post season between teams that already hated each other. It was truly a beautiful thing.

Should all these things make a comeback, the NHL doing things “old school” like this would help spice things up in the postseason as well as not burn fans out having so many regular season games between divisional foes. Of course, the NHL could decide to keep doing the playoffs just as they are now with division winners taking the top two spots and everyone else duking it out for the other six spots.

The NHL has to make a move on realignment before December so as to get the schedule in order for next season. If nothing can be agreed upon by then, any plans to realign would likely get tabled for another season. Don’t expect there to be any problems in getting something worked out however.

Video: Drew Doughty (mostly) avoids massive Matthew Tkachuk hit

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Hockey is such a fast sport that it’s probably not so easy to make someone your “target.” Instead, a big hit often comes down to the right combination of circumstance and timing.

Still, there’s no denying that Matthew Tkachuk is gunning for Drew Doughty (and the Kings are gunning for Tkachuk) on Wednesday.

Doughty isn’t oblivious to that notion, either, as you can see him avoid what looked like a pretty terrifying hit above.

We’ve already covered the early violence in this game, and it’s quite possible that there will be more carnage going forward. Stay tuned.

Blackhawks bolster Central lead, shine harsh light on Penguins’ struggles

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Blame it on injuries if you want, or emphasize the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall hot finish to the season. Either way, Chicago scorched the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 5-1, a contest that felt more or less over by the time the first period ended 4-0 in the Blackhawks’ favor.

The Blackhawks scored by committee on Wednesday, with Artemi Panarin (goal, assist) and Patrick Kane (two assists) being the headliners. Meanwhile, former Penguin Marian Hossa has quietly climbed to 25 goals on the season.

Meanwhile, the Penguins limped through this one and have now lost four consecutive games.

With this result, the Blackhawks look like close to a lock to win the Central Division title. Meanwhile, the Metro crown is virtually unthinkable for Pittsburgh, and the Penguins might also need to accept the likelihood that they may not enjoy home-ice advantage in the first round.

They’d probably accept that more easily if they can get healthier and get back on track. Wednesday was a little worrisome in those regards.

Video: An early taste of the Tkachuk-inspired violence in Kings vs. Flames

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BREAKING: the Los Angeles Kings really don’t appreciate Calgary Flames rookie-pest-forward Matthew Tkachuk thanks to that elbow on Drew Doughty (and the fallout from all … that).

Tkachuk responded by critiquing Doughty for “complaining to the media,” so there was testiness from the start.

There was jawing before the game. Then Jake Muzzin rebuked Tkachuk’s kind offer for a fight. Finally, Keith’s son dropped the gloves with Brayden McNabb:

It wasn’t the only bout of the opening frame, and there could be more blood to come beyond this Jarome IginlaDeryk Engelland feud:

Players from both teams better keep their heads up (and on a swivel) tonight. The Flames have to hope that this doesn’t result in injuries, judging from what happened to Johnny Gaudreau.

Avalanche sign Toews-like first-rounder Tyson Jost

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Things have been pretty bleak for the Colorado Avalanche this season, but at least they can look to a high pick in the next draft … and maybe dream about how their top pick from 2016 may pan out.

The Avs signed Tyson Jost, the 10th pick of the 2016 NHL Draft, to an entry-level contract on Wednesday. Colorado notes that he’ll jump right into some NHL action to close out this season.

It’s a nice sneak preview, as NHL insider Bob McKenzie noted on an NBCSN appearance (see above) that doing so will not burn the first year of Jost’s entry-level contract. Nice.

Even nicer? McKenzie also compares Jost favorably to … (drum-roll, though the headline spoiled it) Jonathan Toews.

Most obviously, the two both starred at the University of North Dakota. For the sake of fun, here are their numbers in their final years in the NCAA:

Jost: 16 goals, 35 points in 33 games, +17 rating (2016-17)
Toews: 18 goals, 46 points in 34 games (2006-07)

Naturally, Toews enthusiasts in particular will tell you that points aren’t everything … but maybe there are some shades of the two-way Blackhawks center there?

The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy raved that Jost has “man-strength already” back around the 2016 NHL Draft, as you can see in this profile.

“Jost oozes confidence and already looks like NHL captain material for the future.”

Hey, that does sound at least somewhat Toews-like, doesn’t it?

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In other signing news, the Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington reports that the Buffalo Sabres signed UMass-Lowell’s CJ Smith. More on that below.