Ott having ‘hard time’ with Kaleta suspension

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Steve Ott has come to the defense of Sabres teammate Patrick Kaleta, questioning Kaleta’s 10-game suspension for a headshot on Jack Johnson.

“It’s hard because there’s no injury on the play,” Ott told The Buffalo News. “I have a hard time with it for that simple fact. Is it suspendable? Absolutely, as in the guy could have really been hurt.

“But could have is not good enough for me.”

Kaleta, 27, will reportedly appeal his suspension, which was handed down on Tuesday. NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan noted the decision was reached because of the Johnson incident and Kaleta’s lengthy rap sheet, as he’s been either fined or suspended six times in the last four years.

On that last point, though, there’s a catch.

“Repeat offender” status as defined by the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement means a player who has been fined or suspended in the past 18 months.

Under that umbrella, Kaleta has only been suspended one time, for boarding Rangers forward Brad Richards last season. All his prior transgressions happened more than 18 months ago.

But, it’s worth noting this 18-month window only applies to the way the player’s forfeited salary is calculated. A repeat offender forfeits 1/82nd of his annual average salary for every game suspended; for non-repeat offenders, that ratio drops to 1/195th (the denominator being days in a season, rather than games in a season).

It remains to be seen how effective Kaleta’s appeal will be. One thing worth noting is that another notorious repeat offender — Phoenix’s Raffi Torres — got his 25-game ban for hitting Marian Hossa reduced to 21 games.

Lundqvist snubs Sens with 21 saves in first (Video)

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You know how goalies claim they prefer to be busy rather than risking rust in seldom seeing shots? If that’s true, Henrik Lundqvist was really, really happy in the first period.

The Ottawa Senators generated chance after chance in a busy opening frame of Game 1, generating a 21-12 shot differential against the New York Rangers. The game remains 0-0 in large part because Lundqvist has carried over his momentum from the Montreal Canadiens series so far.

As you can see from the video above, Lundqvist made some absolutely fantastic saves, especially in somehow stopping Mark Stone.

In a duller game, 21 shots on goal could a team’s entire output.

That’s impressive stuff from what appears to be a “vintage” Lundqvist. We’ll see how much more the Rangers lean on him as this one goes along.

Oh, and here’s a GIF of the best stop of the bunch, because seriously.

Kunitz is in for Penguins vs. Capitals in Game 1

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The Pittsburgh Penguins get a familiar face back in the lineup, as Chris Kunitz is good to go against the Washington Capitals in Game 1.

The 37-year-old has been sidelined since March 31, ending his regular season with just an assist in his final nine games. His last goal came on Feb. 16.

So, in other words … he’s not quite as big of a deal for this series as he had been in the past.

He’ll draw into a solid fourth line with Matt Cullen and Tom Kuhnackl, while Carter Rowney will be a healthy scratch. Check out the Penguins’ line combos heading into Thursday’s showdown:

Foligno, Getzlaf, Giordano vie for Messier Leadership Award

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The NHL announced the three finalists for the Mark Messier Leadership Award: Nick Foligno (Columbus Blue Jackets), Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks) and Mark Giordano (Calgary Flames).

In case you’re curious about the process, the league explains how it works (and how the buck stops with Messier):

Mark Messier solicits suggestions from club and League personnel as well as NHL fans to compile a list of potential candidates for the award. However, the selection of the three finalists and ultimate winner is Messier’s alone. 

So, yes, it might come down to steeliness/60.

Anyway, the most fun part of this award is that Getzlaf and Giordano just engaged in a first-round series, with Getzlaf’s hit on Giordano (see above) being one of the standout moments.

Perhaps Giordano will at least get the best of Getzlaf in this one?

WATCH LIVE: Game 1 for Penguins – Capitals, Rangers – Senators

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It’s really happening.

For all the griping about having the Penguins and Capitals meet in the second round (again), it’s easy to forget the bright side: upsets didn’t dislodge this juicy matchup from taking place.

The West’s duo of Game 1 matchups kicked into gear last night, and now the East provides that battle between Sidney Crosby‘s squad and Alex Ovechkin‘s loaded team. Don’t sleep on Rangers – Senators, either, though; there should be plenty of intrigue in seeing superhuman Swedes Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson try to one-up each other.

Here’s what you need to know to follow the action:

New York Rangers vs. Ottawa Senators

Time: 7:00 p.m. ET

Network: CNBC (Stream online here)

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals

Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream online here)