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Columnist says stigma of Russian players “far outweighs anyone else’s baggage”

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In the wake of Nashville suspending Alexander Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn for violating team rules, Sportsnet’s Mark Spector decided to analyze the current plight of Russian players in the NHL.

His conclusion? They carry more bags than a bellhop.

You’ve got to admit though, the stigma that has grown on players from that country now far outweighs anyone else’s baggage.

Today, with the infusion of the KHL dilemma, the problematic innuendo extends to potential draft picks. On the same day that Radulov and Kostitsyn — we know, a Belarussian, not the same thing — were outed, Washington’s 26th overall draft pick in 2010, Evgeny Kuznetsov, announced he is set to sign a contract to spend two more years with Traktor Chelyabinsk of the KHL.

Who knows what kind of player he’ll be when and if he finally gets to Washington?

Columbus had has its fun with high drafts Nikolai Zherdev (No. 4 in ’03) and Nikita Filatov (No. 6 in ’08). And now, the Edmonton Oilers may just pass along the Russian problem again, should they trade its No. 1 overall pick or choose a defenceman, leaving Nail Yakupov for Columbus GM Scott Howson at No. 2.

Even the established Russians are having a tough time in the NHL these days. Alexander Ovechkin’s ice time has plummeted. Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov’s a flake. After a 50-goal season Evgeni Malkin managed just three goals in six games of an offence-palooza against Philadelphia in Round 1.

It’s an interesting angle to take (and controversial, based on the heat emanating from Sportsnet’s comments section) but I wonder if this “Russian stigma” is just a cyclical thing.

The NHL has gone through spells of both fascination and frustration with Russian players. It wasn’t long ago that the Hart Trophy finalists were all Russians (Ovechkin, Malkin and Pavel Datsyuk) — and it’s not like this year has been an outright disaster.

Are Ovechkin’s minutes down? Yes, but he still leads the team in scoring. Did Malkin have a bad first round? Sure, but he’s likely going to win the league’s MVP. Is Bryzgalov a flake? Probably, but he was a flake long before coming to Philly.

The NHL also figures to be high on Russians again, and very soon. Yakupov and Mikhail Grigorenko are two of the top prospects heading into the 2012 Draft while the Russian team has won gold and silver at the last two World Junior Championships, suggesting there’s more young talent to come.

Video: Evander Kane believes he won his fights vs. Alex Petrovic

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The Florida Panthers are beating up the Buffalo Sabres where it counts – on the scoreboard – but Evander Kane was happy to highlight his perceived victories in a couple bouts.

Buffalo’s power forward fought Alex Petrovic twice on Tuesday, and Kane wasn’t shy about holding up a “2-0.”

You can watch the second fight above, and the first one below, via Hockey Fights by way of MSG:

This GIF might just say it all, really:

Update: Apparently they fought again moments after this post went up.

Probably safe to call it a rivalry between the two, right?

Fight video: Yes, a visor-breaking punch

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Some hockey players resist the urge to wear a visor, at least if they’re given that choice.

Perhaps a few will say “Hey, Nathan Beaulieu will just punch it off anyway.”

Maybe not, but Beaulieu provided a rather unique moment in his fight with Cedric Paquette during the Montreal Canadiens – Tampa Bay Lightning game. You can watch that bout in the video above, and see a cut on the Lightning pest’s face from that blow.

Want it in GIF form? OK then:

Sending a message: Flames scratch Gaudreau, Monahan, Bouma

Calgary Flames' Sean Monahan, left, celebrates his goal with teammate Johnny Gaudreau during the third period against the Carolina Hurricanes in an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016, in Calgary, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau figure to be a big part of the Calgary Flames’ forward group, both in the present and the future.

That said, it the very specific present, they’ll be watching Tuesday’s game from the press box.

After an unsatisfactory practice amid flailing playoff hopes, Flames head coach Bob Hartley made a big statement tonight, taking Monahan, Gaudreau and Lance Bouma out of the lineup as healthy scratches against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Wow.

It’s amusing timing, too, as the Maple Leafs will roll with a bit of a skeleton crew of their own after that splashy Dion Phaneuf trade.

Some background

Sportsnet’s Mark Spector was there for the practice, which was unusually short at 25 minutes.

“He wasn’t happy with the way we were practicing,” David Jones told Spector. “It’s a little embarrassing when we’re not (making) five-foot passes.

“I think he was pretty pissed off about the way things were looking.”

Call it a combination of poor execution and maybe a tardy arrival … perhaps from a Super Bowl party or two?

Bruins pay warm tribute to Milan Lucic

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Milan Lucic may or may not spend a big chunk of his career with the Los Angeles Kings, but the Boston Bruins haven’t forgotten his contributions.

(Their fans haven’t, either.)

The Bruins shared a tribute video for Lucic, decked out in a loud, retro-style Kings sweater on Tuesday. The hulking winger seemed to appreciate the nod from his former team, and also acknowledged fans who watched him develop into one of the league’s most formidable power forwards.

(H/T to the Score by way of The Hockey Beat for the video.)