We’ve waited all season to see who would be the first player to really test Brendan Shanahan’s nerve with a dirty hit or play, and we might have our answer already.
During the third period of Buffalo’s loss to Philadelphia, Ville Leino got away with an attempt to hit Flyers rookie Matt Read in the head with a rather Matt Cooke-like elbow. Sorry Pens fans, that’s just the description that works best.
Read had the puck at his feet in the zone with his head down when Leino skated past him sticking his elbow out and just missing connecting directly with Read’s head. Leino wasn’t penalized for the play and Read was uninjured by the glancing blow, but the intent to connect with Read’s head was all there.
See for yourself.
If ever there was a hit that fit perfectly under what Shanahan wants eliminated from the game, this is it. That kind of chicken wing elbow to another player’s head is wrong and expect Leino to get suspended merely for the gross intent he had on the play.
As if Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final couldn’t get any more dramatic, it has — Tampa Bay captain Steve Stamkos, who hasn’t played since Mar. 31, will make his playoff debut against the Penguins tonight.
Stamkos underwent vascular surgery in early April to correct a blood clotting issue, and has remained on blood thinners ever since. While there’s been no confirmation he’s off medication, he did tell Sportsnet he’d be able to return to the lineup once he was.
Stamkos reiterated that he’s still on the same prescription of blood thinners he was given earlier this month. He takes a 12-hour dosage, twice a day, and it has been suggested to him that once he is cleared to stop taking the medication, Stamkos conceivably could return to the Lightning lineup almost immediately.
That’s why I’m trying to stay in shape,” he said.
Stamkos' surgeon, Karl Illig, told the Times, his risks are "very, very low," decision up to Stamkos. "I think he's doing the right thing."
It’s been exactly eight weeks since Stamkos played his last game. At the time of his diagnosis, the Lightning said his timetable for recovery was 1-3 months.
To say his return will be a boost is a major understatement. Aside from the emotional factor, Stamkos led the Bolts in goals this year, with 36, and would presumably spark a power play that’s gone just 2-for-12 in the series.
As such, the drama surrounding Tampa Bay’s captain has reached an all-time high. Stamkos, who’s been out of the lineup since early April due to blood clots, looks as though he’s on the verge of an emotional comeback as the Lightning try to win an ECF Game 7 — on the road — for a second consecutive season.
“If Stamkos is in the lineup, it’s our best foot forward,” Cooper said. “If he’s not in the lineup, it’s because he wasn’t eligible to play.”
No word if No. 91 is still on the blood thinning medication he’s been taking since undergoing vascular surgery on Apr. 4.
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