NHL provides video explanations for two hits-related rule changes

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Earlier this summer, the NHL’s Board of Governors decided to make further tweaks to its rules regarding penalty and suspension-worthy hits in the hopes of reducing ugly checks and the troubling injuries that come with them. The meeting resulted in wording changes for Rules 41 (boarding) and 48 (illegal check to the head).

The changes to Rule 41 should make it easier for referees to make calls regarding boarding penalties. It now penalizes players who fail to avoid or minimize contact with a defenseless opponent along the boards. On the other hand, it also gives referees discretion if they believe the victim put himself into a vulnerable position in the last moment before a hit, making the conclusion unavoidable. (Referees will also make judgment calls about the severity of the impact.)

Rule 48 has been simplified with a significant deleted phrase. A hit will now be illegal if the head is the “principal point of contact” without the exception of a “blindside or lateral hit.” Debating the suspension-worthiness of a check last season often seemed like splitting hairs because of the “blindside or lateral hit” provision, so this should make things much clearer. Much like the boarding alteration, there is some leeway given to hitters if the recipient moved into that position at an inopportune moment.

While the wording has been changed, any grammar school teacher will tell you that some people are better visual learners. For that reason, the NHL decided to provide video explanations of the two changed rules.

First, here’s the video for Rule 48.

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Now let’s take a look at the boarding-related changes to Rule 41.

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(Am I the only one who thinks that it’s still kind of weird to view Brendan Shanahan in the role of league disciplinarian – or as an NHL executive in general, really?)

On paper, these changes seem like strong steps in the right direction. The league is also looking into other measures to make the game safer, but many make a valid argument that it still comes down to the players cleaning up their acts. Steven Stamkos has been outspoken about this subject, which you can see in the video below.

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Whatever the case may be, the NHL needs to do what it can to minimize the odds for serious injuries. Using safer equipment and implementing more straightforward rules are two solid ways to move in the right direction, but the 2011-12 season will ultimately decide if Shanahan & Co. are on the correct course.

Coyotes fire assistant coach Newell Brown

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The Arizona Coyotes have parted ways with some personnel.

Assistant coach Newell Brown has been fired, along with Doug Soetaert, who was the general manager of their AHL affiliate in Tuscon.

Pro scouts David MacLean and Jim Roque won’t be back either. Their contracts will not be renewed.

“I’d like to thank Newell, Doug, David and Jim for their contributions to the club,” said GM John Chayka. “They are all good people but we believe these changes are necessary in order to improve our organization. We wish them the best in the future.”

A longtime NHL assistant coach, Brown is perhaps the most prominent of the four men. He joined the Coyotes in the summer of 2013 and received high praise for his work with their power play.

But Arizona’s power play slipped to 26th this past season, converting at a rate of just 16.2 percent.

As for Soetaert, he was only named GM of the Roadrunners last summer. The former NHL goalie had previously been a scout.

Plenty of seats available for tonight’s game in Ottawa

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The Ottawa Senators say they’re still expecting a full house, but Ticketmaster’s website shows plenty of available seats for tonight’s second-round opener with the New York Rangers.

From the Ottawa Citizen:

Many of the available tickets for Thursday’s game were in the corners of the upper bowl, seats that carry a $96 price tag.

The Senators sold out all three games in the opening round of the playoffs against Boston. Game 1 drew a crowd of 18,702, while 18,629 showed up for Game 2 and 19,209 were in the seats for Game 5.

Attendance has been an issue in Ottawa — or, more specifically, suburban Kanata — all season, to the point owner Eugene Melnyk expressed great frustration with the lack of sellouts at Canadian Tire Centre.

Poor attendance also led to friction behind the scenes. At least, it sure sounded that way in the lawsuit that was filed against the team by its former chief marketing officer.

Poor attendance is why the Sens are trying to get a new downtown arena built. They believe that a more central location is the key to bigger crowds.

But regardless of the arena’s location, it won’t be a good look if there are empty seats tonight. This is the playoffs, and the Senators are one of eight remaining teams in the hunt for the Stanley Cup. The building should be full.

Related: Melnyk thinks Sens can make deep playoff run

McPhee won’t bring Stanley, Vegas’ lucky golden rooster, to draft lottery

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There’s no way any lede I write will do this Review-Journal anecdote justice, so yeah, just read it:

[Vegas GM George] McPhee still has his superstitions like any former athlete. But don’t expect him to be rubbing a rabbit’s foot or holding a bunch of 4-leaf clovers in his pocket.

And he decided to leave Stanley the Rooster home rather than try and explain to Canadian Customs officials why the gift given to the team by the Mandarin Oriental back in February during Chinese New Year should be allowed into the country as a good luck prop.

The draft lottery goes Saturday in Toronto, at 7:30 p.m. ET. Vegas won’t drop any lower than sixth and has a 10.3 percent shot at the No. 1 overall pick, behind Colorado (18 percent) and Vancouver (12.1 percent). Arizona also has a 10.3 percent chance at getting top spot.

Hagelin making ‘significant steps’ in returning to Pens lineup

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It’s been nearly six weeks since Carl Hagelin last suited up for the Penguins.

His return sounds like it’s on the horizon.

Hagelin, out since Mar. 10 with a lower-body injury, was deemed “close” to coming back by Pens head coach Mike Sullivan, just ahead of tonight’s Game 1 against Washington.

“[Hagelin] is a day-to-day decision at this point,” Sullivan said. “He took limited contact this morning. The next step, obviously, will be the full contact approach.

“He is certainly making significant steps in the right direction here.”

The speedy Swede missed the final 16 games of the regular season with his ailment, and all five games in Pittsburgh’s opening-round win against the Blue Jackets. The end result was just six goals and 22 points in 61 games played, down from the impressive stretch he had last season after being acquired from Anaheim.

Pittsburgh is hopeful the 28-year-old can rejoin the team, and provide similar production as last year’s playoff run. Hagelin had six goals and 16 points in 24 games en route to hoisting the Stanley Cup.

Hagelin isn’t the only veteran forward that could make his return this season. Earlier this week, the Pens announced winger Chris Kunitz had been cleared for contact, and is available for the Washington series.