Vincent Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos, Keith Aulie, Colby Armstrong, Joey Crabb

Mikhail Grabovski shakes off Chris Neil’s questionable hit

The general consensus from fans, writers and even players and coaches is that Brendan Shanahan is making the league’s disciplinary rules more straightforward.

Sure, it’s true that some players are still a bit confused about which hits are legal and which ones go over the line. Martin Brodeur also points to the elephant in the room: what happens when a star player delivers a questionable hit? Still, few seem to miss the “Wheel of Justice” from Colin Campbell’s days.

That doesn’t mean that there are hits that some believe are slipping under the radar, though. For example, the Buffalo Sabres voiced their disapproval for a hit that Toronto Maple Leafs grinder Colby Armstrong delivered on Paul Gaustad.

Another highly debatable but ultimately punishment-free hit came when Ottawa Senators ruffian Chris Neil “stepped in” to Maple Leafs forward Mikhail Grabovski. TSN reports that Shanahan determined that the check didn’t violate Rule 48 for an illegal hit to the head, so Neil won’t be fined or suspended.

That might be irritating to Maple Leafs fans, but there’s at least some good news: Grabovski seems fine. The underrated Russian scorer returned to action after leaving the ice following that hit, although his situation might be worthy of at least keeping an eye on (since the league’s “Quiet Room” procedures have been criticized quite a bit).

Overall, it sounds like Leafs fans should utter a sigh of relief for a player who scored 29 goals and 58 points in what many hope is a sign of even better things to come. This is especially promising news since up-and-coming prospect Nazem Kadri injured his knee.

The Maple Leafs have a remarkably up-and-down schedule, so if they can keep their best players healthy, that would certainly help them weather some storms. Grabovski is one of those players, so it’s great to hear that he appears fine.

(H/T to Rotoworld.)

NHL on NBCSN ’15-16 coverage begins tonight with doubleheader

Corey Crawford, Derek Stepan
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After months of waiting, we’re finally ready to begin the 2015-16 campaign and NBCSN will kick off its coverage with a doubleheader tonight.

The action will begin with the Chicago Blackhawks hosting the New York Rangers, starting at 8:00 p.m. ET.

Chicago has been called a dynasty by some for winning the Stanley Cup three times over the last six campaigns, but one thing that the Blackhawks haven’t done is successfully defend a title. The last team to do so was the Detroit Red Wings in 1997-98 before the salary cap era kicked off. That change was on display this summer as the Blackhawks were forced to move or otherwise walk away from Johnny Oduya, Kris Versteeg, Patrick Sharp, Antoine Vermette, Brad Richards, and Brandon Saad in the name of cap compliance.

Even after losing all those pieces of their 2015 championship team though, Chicago has emerged from the summer with much of its core intact. It also has some promising new players, such as 23-year-old KHL star Artemi Panarin, who is attempting to make the leap to the NHL after outscoring former teammate Ilya Kovalchuk on his way to leading SKA St. Petersburg to a KHL championship.

The New York Rangers should be a great first test for the Blackhawks as they begin their new quest. The Rangers advanced to at least the Eastern Conference Final in three of the last four years, but they haven’t earned a championship since 1994. With Henrik Lundqvist set to celebrate his 34th birthday in March, the Rangers’ window for winning the Cup in front of their all-star goaltender is closing and thus the stakes are high for New York this season.

Starting at 10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN will air the San Jose Sharks’ contest against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center. This is the second straight year that these two teams have been matched for the opener, but this time it’s under much different circumstances.

A year ago, Los Angeles had its sights set on defending its title while the Sharks were seeking revenge after suffering a reverse sweep in the first round against the Kings. In the end, neither team had the season they were looking for as they both fell short of the playoffs.

For the Sharks, that miss ended a playoff streak that dated back to the 2003-04 campaign while Los Angeles suffered its first major setback since it celebrated its first championship in 2012. Both teams have to be hungry to bounce right back this season and given that each both of these squads are certainly capable of obtaining that goal. First though, they need to settle the latest chapter of their rivalry.

PHT Morning Skate: Remembering 10 years of Crosby, Ovechkin

Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Here’s a detailed look back at Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin‘s first 10 years in the NHL. (

Speaking of Crosby, he’s signed a multiyear partnership with adidas. (Newswire)

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will play a key role in easing Connor McDavid into the NHL. (Edmonton Sun)

After two polar opposite seasons, the jury is still out on Patrick Roy as a head coach. (Denver Post)

Marc-Andre Fleury enjoys pulling off pranks on his teammates. “I play better when I’m looser, laughing and having fun,” he said. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

Art McDonald, a Canadian who won recently won a Nobel Prize, talked to the committee members about the Toronto Maple Leafs. (SB Nation)