Columbus Blue Jackets Press Conference Introducing New Players Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski

NHL hands James Wisniewski a heavy suspension that includes eight regular season games

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Previous suspensions should have illustrated this point already, but let there be no doubt: Brendan Shanahan is for real.

The NHL’s new head of discipline hasn’t been shy about sending messages with suspensions so far, but Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski received the harshest punishment yet – it will sideline the team’s expensive new blueliner for the remainder of the preseason and eight regular season games.

That blows Jody Shelley’s preseason-plus-five-games ruling out of the water, especially when you consider Wisniewski’s far more crucial role with the Blue Jackets. One can see the difference in the amount of money Wisniewski will forfeit compared to other players. While Brad Staubitz will give up a bit more than $9,000 and Shelley’s wallet will be short about $67K, missing almost 10 percent of Columbus’ 2011-12 season will cost Wisniewski a whopping $536,586.36.

Breaking down the punishment

Wisniewski administered an illegal hit to the head of perennial NHL hits leader Cal Clutterbuck during the waning moments of the Blue Jackets’ Sept. 23 exhibition game against the Minnesota Wild. Wisniewski received a minor penalty at the time of the infraction. He already missed yesterday’s contest against the Buffalo Sabres as the league mulled over the decision, while he’ll sit out tonight’s match against Washington, Thursday’s contest against Minnesota and Friday’s preseason closer at Carolina.

Obviously, the Blue Jackets will be much more concerned with those regular season games. Here’s a quick look at Columbus’ upcoming schedule, including the first game he’ll be eligible for (in bold).

Oct. 7: home vs. Nashville
Oct. 8: at Minnesota
Oct. 10: home vs. Vancouver
Oct. 12: home vs. Colorado
Oct. 15: at Dallas
Oct. 18: home vs. Dallas
Oct. 21: at Detroit
Oct. 22: at Ottawa
Oct. 25: home vs. Detroit

That span of games shows just how big a blow this should be for the Blue Jackets and their pricey new defenseman. Wisniewski will miss two games against Central Division teams and seven contests versus Western Conference opponents.

A history of illegal violence

To some, this might even rank as an excessive penalty, but don’t forget that Wisniewski is a repeat offender. The rambunctious defenseman has been suspended on four different occasions before today:

  • Two games on Oct. 12, 2010.
  • Eight games on March 18, 2010.
  • Two games on Nov. 2, 2009.
  • One game on March 12, 2008.

Considering his lengthy history of questionable behavior, it’s hard to say if this punishment will get through to him, although Wisniewski must have been feeling pressure to justify that new contract right away. This is a terrible way to begin a hefty new contract and while the point might not really sink in for Wisniewski considering his pattern of mistakes, hopefully other players might start to get the message that illegal hits won’t be tolerated.

If not, we might end up watching a lot of Shanahan videos this season – and I’m not talking about funny commercials, either. Here’s the new head of discipline’s latest suspension explanation video.

NBC and NBCSN have you covered for Hockey Day in America

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With two games on NBC and then two more on NBCSN, your Sunday should be jam-packed with Hockey Day in America action. A look at the hockey hotbed of Warroad, Minnesota adds a delectable cherry on top, too.

If you need a guide to this party of pucks and patriotism, look no further than this post.

Washington Capitals at New York Rangers, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC

John Carlson, T.J. Oshie and the dominant Capitals take on Ryan McDonagh and the Blueshirts. The Metropolitan Division represents some of the NHL’s upper crust, so don’t be fooled by the Rangers being the first wild card while the Caps are tops in the East; both of these teams can go. Kenny Albert and Brian Boucher will be there to call the action.

MORE: For Oshie, ties to Warroad run deep

Detroit Red Wings at Pittsburgh Penguins, 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC

Mike “Doc” Emrick and Eddie Olczyk will be in the booth for this battle between teams that met in back-to-back Stanley Cup Final series in 2008 and 2009. Along with usual suspects like Sidney Crosby and Henrik Zetterberg, these teams feature American scorers such as Dylan Larkin and, of course, Phil Kessel.

Chicago Blackhawks at Buffalo Sabres, 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN

The action shifts to NBCSN as Patrick Kane and the Blackhawks hope to teach Jack Eichel and the upstart Sabres a lesson or two. The Blackhawks are in playoff position, as usual, while Buffalo is rallying to try to make a push of its own. Gord Miller and Joe Micheletti will be your guides.

MORE: Islanders forward Brock Nelson’s journey from Warroad to the NHL

Boston Bruins at San Jose Sharks, 8:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Hockey Day in America’s coverage closes off with this matchup between David Backes‘ Bruins and Joe Pavelski‘s Sharks. Randy Hahn, Andy Brickley and Bret Hedican will take you through this match between the Pacific Division’s top team and a Bruins team fighting to stick in the East playoff picture.

Barkov’s beautiful goal pushes Panthers into playoff position

SUNRISE, FL - NOVEMBER 26: Aleksander Barkov #16 of the Florida Panthers circles the net with the puck against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the BB&T Center on November 26, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida. The Panthers defeated the Blue Jackets 2-1 in a shoot out. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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The Florida Panthers just won’t be denied as they end the night in the East’s top eight.

It’s fitting, then, that Aleksander Barkov wouldn’t be denied on his game-winner against Los Angeles on Saturday.

Barkov bursts beyond multiple Kings, fights off what would have been an obstruction penalty and then beats Peter Budaj by the narrowest of margins to give the Panthers a 3-2 lead 15 seconds into the third period. They would never relinquish that edge to Los Angeles, winning their fourth game in a row.

In the process, the Panthers – a team that seemed to be fledgling when it fired Gerard Gallant – now find themselves in the East’s top eight. Heck, they’re actually above the wild card fray by a hair.

Before we get to that … just bask in the glow of this Barkov goal:

Again, it was such a small window to beat Budaj, too:

(If the Panthers’ place in the standings doesn’t sway you into taking them seriously, maybe note plays like that and the fact that Barkov has 20 points in his last 17 games.)

OK, so with this win, the Panthers did some serious leapfrogging. They now rank third in the Atlantic Division (thanks to a game in hand on Boston) and have more points than Toronto as far as wild card concerns go, anyway.

Atlantic Division rankings

1. Canadiens – 70 points in 59 games
2. Senators – 68 points in 56 games
3. Panthers – 64 points in 57 games

Bruins – 64 in 58
Maple Leafs – 63 in 47
Sabres – 62 in 59
Lightning – 58 in 57
Red Wings – 56 in 58

From a wild card perspective

Third in Atlantic – Panthers – 64 points in 57 games
Second wild card – Bruins – 64 in 58

Maple Leafs – 63 in 47
Islanders – 62 in 57
Sabres – 62 in 59
Flyers – 61 in 58
Devils – 60 in 58
Lightning – 58 in 57
Hurricanes – 56 in 54
Red Wings – 56 in 58

Everything’s so close that the Panthers can’t pop champagne bottles, but they’re also very much in control over their hopes. While it never hurts to see your competitors stumble, the Panthers can take care of business. They “control their own destiny,” to use silly sports parlance.

And considering how they’ve been playing lately, they might be as tough to handle in the playoffs as Barkov was to stop on that outstanding 3-2 goal.

Stars made Dave Strader’s return to the booth special

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It was a special night as the Dallas Stars beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 in overtime, but the most memorable moment wasn’t the win or Antoine Roussel‘s hat trick.

Instead, it was how the team embraced Dave Strader’s return to the broadcasting booth as he continues to fight cancer.

Don’t be ashamed if his comments to the Dallas Morning News leave you emotional:

“This is the first time, to be honest with you, that for four hours I didn’t feel like I was sick at all,” Strader said after the game. “Maybe it was the adrenaline high, but I really, really feel great right now.”

Again, the team really did some great things to welcome him back, but the highlight was saluting him after the game. Incredible stuff.

“What a gesture by the boys … meant so much to me and my wife! Thank you.” Strader tweeted after the game.

As this post notes, Strader is expected to do play-by-play for four more Stars games.

Add allowing center-ice goal to Brian Elliott’s rough season

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So far, there’s just one goal in tonight’s Calgary Flames – Vancouver Canucks game. And it wasn’t a good one.

The Canucks couldn’t manage a shot on goal for more than half of the first period, maybe putting Brian Elliott to sleep … as Alexander Edler scored the 1-0 goal from center ice on Vancouver’s first shot that actually got on net. Ouch.

It’s already been a tough season for Brian Elliott, who came into Saturday with an .898 save percentage.

Elliott was perfect through the rest of the first two periods, so we’ll see if Calgary can overcome that gaffe.

Update: The Canucks ended up winning 2-1 in overtime. Ryan Miller was the better of the two goalies in this one.