Ryan Malone

No Malone, no Gudas for Bolts tonight vs. Rangers

The banged-up Tampa Bay Lightning will be without two more regulars on Monday night.

Forward Ryan Malone and defenseman Radko Gudas are both out with injuries, head coach Jon Cooper announced this morning. That’s opened the door for AHL scoring sensation Nikita Kucherov to make his NHL debut, skating on a line with Alex Killorn and Teddy Purcell.

Kucherov, the 58th overall pick at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, has 24 points in 17 games for Syracuse this season and sits second in American League scoring, four back of league leader Travis Morin (28 points for Texas).

While it promises to be an exciting evening for Kucherov, the Lightning can’t be happy with the way things have unfolded in November. The club already lost leading scorer Steve Stamkos to a broken tibia and Keith Aulie to an upper-body ailment, and those came after Tom Pyatt suffered a broken collarbone and Brian Lee underwent knee surgery the month prior.

As for Malone and Gudas, the former has nine points in 23 games this year while the latter has six, but is averaging close to 20 minutes per game and has emerged as a physical stalwart on the Bolts’ blueline.

Report: Kings, Richards nearing settlement

Mike Richards
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The Los Angeles Kings and Mike Richards may be nearing a settlement in their dispute over Richards’ terminated contract, TSN’s Bob McKenzie is reporting.

You can read the report for all the details, but we’re sure curious about this part:

If a settlement is reached, there’s no word yet on what salary cap penalties the Kings would still face. There’s bound to be something, but not likely as onerous as the full value of Richards’ contract, which carries with it a cap hit of $5.75 million. If there’s a settlement, Richards would undoubtedly become a free agent though there’s no telling at this point what monies he would be entitled to from the Kings in a settlement.

The issue here is precedent, and what this case could set. The NHL and NHLPA can’t allow teams to escape onerous contracts through a back door, and many are adamant that that’s what the Kings were attempting to do in Richards’ case.

Bettman to players: Don’t screw up ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ with drugs

Gary Bettman
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The NHL wants to take an educational approach — not a punitive one — to deter its players from using illicit drugs like cocaine.

“My interest is not to go around punishing people,” Bettman told Sportsnet today.

“My interest is getting players to understand the consequences of doing something that could jeopardize this great, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they’ve been given, to play in the NHL.”

While some players have expressed surprise at hearing that cocaine use is growing, the anecdotal evidence of substance abuse has been very much in the news, from Jarret Stoll‘s arrest to Mike Richards’ arrest to, more recently, Zack Kassian‘s placement in the NHL/NHLPA’s treatment program.

“We don’t have the unilateral right to do things here. We need the consent of the Players’ Association,” Bettman said. “It’s not about punishment. It’s about making sure we get it to stop.”

Related: Cocaine in the NHL: A concern, but not a crisis?