Anaheim Ducks v Phoenix Coyotes

The one ref Vancouver probably didn’t want reffing tonight’s game is reffing tonight’s game


The officiating crew for tonight’s Canucks-Blackhawks game is in, and it’s an eyebrow raiser.

The linesmen will be Shane Heyer and Thor Nelson, while the referees are Eric Furlatt and…

Dan O’Halloran.

O’Halloran — No. 13 in your lucky number programs — is a pretty curious assignment, given his lengthy history with the Canucks.

First and foremost, O’Halloran was one of the two officials working the last time Vancouver and Chicago met, when Duncan Keith was whistled for a two-minute elbowing minor on Daniel Sedin:

That incident set off a hailstorm of controversy.

Sedin missed the remaining nine games of the regular season and first three games of the playoffs with a concussion, while Keith was tagged with a five-game suspension from NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan.

Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault was incensed the call on the ice didn’t reflect the severity of the hit or subsequent punishment from the league.

“We got a big two-minute power play off that hit from the same referee — remember last year when Daniel got punched six times in the face in the Boston series?” Vigneault said. “I seem to remember it was the same guy.”

That guy was none other than O’Halloran, one of two referees working Game 6 of the 2011 Stanley Cup final, during which Boston’s Brad Marchand repeatedly punched Sedin in the face.

Sedin received a 10-minute misconduct, as did Marchand — though Marchand got an extra two for roughing.

(And to be fair, it was Kelly Sutherland who was directly involved with trying to stop the altercation.)

Earlier in that same postseason, O’Halloran was working Game 2 of the Western Conference final between Vancouver and San Jose, in which Ben Eager hammered Sedin with this hit:

Eager was given a two-minute boarding minor on the play, a decision the Canucks were displeased with.

The two-minute penalty also came under scrutiny when, shortly after the playoffs ended, the NHL sent out a player safety video (FF to 8:01) in which the Eager-Sedin hit was used to illustrate illegal action under the new boarding rules.


Blackhawks and Canucks: ‘bitterness’ lingers about Keith elbow on Sedin

Panarin impresses ‘Hawks with his preseason debut

Artemi Panarin
AP Photo

Will Artem Panarin‘s overwhelming success in the KHL translate to North America? The 23-year-old forward has a lot to prove, but his first big test was a success.

Playing on a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, Panarin made his preseason debut in Chicago’s finale on Saturday. He registered two assists while giving his teammates reason to be optimistic about him.

“For not being on the ice he looks really relaxed. He’s great with the puck, has nice moves and I think we’ll see a lot of this,” Marian Hossa told CSN Chicago. “He has unbelievable skill. People here in Chicago are going to have a good time watching this guy dangling.”

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was impressed by Panarin as well and liked that line as a whole.

The fact that the trio seemed to hit it off quickly has to come as a relief after an upper-body injury prevented Panarin from getting the most out of this year’s training camp. At the end of the day though, the fact that he was able to at least get in one preseason contest is a big silver lining. How smoothly his adjustment goes from here is still a big X-factor, but at least now he’s going into the regular season with a better idea of what to expect.

Panarin is attempting to establish himself in the NHL after leading the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg to a championship last year. He was the team’s scoring leader, topping ex-NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk.

Gustavsson secures one-year contract with Bruins

Jonas Gustavsson
AP Photo
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There was stiff competition for the backup goaltending job in Boston, but with a signing this afternoon, it seems likely that the matter has been resolved.

The Boston Bruins announced that Jonas Gustavsson has agreed to a one-year, $700,000 deal. It’s a one-way contract, according to the Boston Globe’s Amalie Benjamin.

That contract is still small enough that the Bruins could bury it in the minors if they so desire, but it does set him apart from his last competitor for the goalie position, Jeremy Smith, who has a two-way deal. The fact that Boston went this route seems to imply that Gustavsson will serve as Tuukka Rask‘s understudy, although both netminders attended Sunday’s practice.

In Smith, the Bruins would be getting a 26-year-old goaltender who was dominant with the AHL’s Providence Bruins last season, but has no NHL experience. By contrast Gustavsson, 30, has played in almost 150 NHL games.

Boston sent Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban to the minors last week, but an argument could be made that either one of them is worthy of the backup job. However, both of them have a lot of potential and it’s not surprising that the Bruins felt they were better served by staying in the minors where they can play regularly and focus on honing their game.