Pittsburgh Penguins v Boston Bruins

The Chip ‘n’ Chase: Outrage over hockey violence, Gary Bettman is a happy man, Darryl Sutter is awesome, and more!

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This is a new thing we’re trying. Every Wednesday, we’ll publish a little back-and-forth we have via email. We’re calling it the Chip ‘n’ Chase. Yes, it’s a terrible name. Enjoy.

Jason Brough: Hey buddy, so I suppose we should thank the Penguins and Bruins for giving us lots to write about this week. If there’s anything that gets PHT commenters more fired up than dirty plays and suspensions, I’m not sure what it is. Cat nip maybe? Though to be fair, it’s not like the media has been any more measured in its response. Some of the stuff I’ve read, you’d think somebody was attacked with a chainsaw in that game. I’m not trying to downplay the seriousness of what happened to Brooks Orpik, or overlook the absurdity of James Neal dropping his knee like a second-rate professional wrestler, but sometimes I feel like the hockey world needs to calm down and get a hold of itself. It’s a physical, emotional game. The players carry sticks and are dressed like gladiators. Things are going to happen out there from time to time. Or maybe I’m being too laissez faire about all this. I’ll give you a moment to look up the definition of that.

Mike Halford: I know what it means. It means you’re a heartless, desensitized monster who doesn’t care about the health and safety of professional athletes. And for what it’s worth, I kind of enjoy being outraged. Throwing around words like “disgraceful” and “sickening” makes me feel like I’m above the sort of behavior we saw in Boston. Sometimes I even wear a top hat while I’m being outraged. I also find it pretty darn funny that a few days prior to slew-footing Orpik, Thornton was waxing poetic about honor and the code. He actually said this: “People could probably criticize that I’m a little too honorable.” Bet that’s less of a problem now! So lemme ask you this, in the wake of Thornton blatantly defiling the code, what’s the point of having one if it flies out the window when things get too “physical” or “emotional”? Now, that said, I fully agree there would be a lot less uproar and hand-wringing if everybody just accepted that until fighting is out of the game, it’s part of the game. Well, it’s part of the game as long as you keep your helmet on. And don’t do it in the final few minutes of a game. You also can’t leave the bench to do it. And you’re not allowed to take on an unwilling combatant… but that last one doesn’t apply to goalies. At least I don’t think it does. Wait, where was I going with this?

JB: As usual, you were going nowhere. But in going nowhere, you actually made a pretty good point. The fighting/violence debate always opens a huge can of worms, because there are so many “but what if” and “but you can’t ignore” counter-arguments just waiting to be made. I suppose one’s willingness to open that can of worms depends how big a problem one thinks the NHL has with safety. I actually believe there’s been good progress made in the past few seasons and that players are learning. At the risk of channeling Gary Bettman, the vast majority of hits don’t result in injuries or suspensions, and the large majority of games don’t stop for players to get stretchered off. Which admittedly isn’t the greatest marketing campaign — “The NHL: where most of our players leave the ice all by themselves!” — but it’s no worse than the time they did that thing with the superheroes.

source:  MH: I almost forgot about the Guardian Project. What a mess that was. Especially when the animators clearly ran out of ideas and started giving characters lame, incongruous super powers. “The Canuck is half-killer whale… but can climb trees…and has a cape…and is, um, a highly motivated self-starter who works well with others…” “Wait, is that from your résumé?” “Look, just send it to the printer.” Not the league’s finest moment. Certainly not as fine as Bettman was feeling Tuesday while talking to reporters after the Board of Governors meetings. Have you ever seen him lord over the media like that? You almost had to respect the guy’s swagger. This was my favorite quote, by the way: “My my, how far we’ve come since the summer, when all the articles and speculation were about all these franchises that were supposedly in trouble, which we never believed were.”

JB: Yeah, that was pretty entertaining. Particularly the way he talked to the assembled reporters like they were children who had no idea how business works. At one point I thought he was going to sit everyone down and read them a story. Since we’re doing favorite quotes, here was mine, on the topic of expansion: “So we went from relocation in your view and distress to now we should be expanding. Everybody needs to slow down. We don’t operate like that. Everything in due course. If, in fact, there’s a due course to pursue.” Classic Bettman. Just covering all the bases. I might actually start using that last part in everyday life. “Sir, are you going to pay for that magazine? You can’t just stand there reading it for free.” “Everything in due course. If, in fact, there’s a due course to pursue.”

MH: And you just keep reading the December issue of Cosmo. Anyway, as much as I enjoyed Bettman’s remedial economics lecture, he’s only my second favorite press-conference connoisseur in the NHL. First place, and by a mile, goes to Kings head coach Darryl Sutter. Did you see the one where he started asking himself questions he thought reporters should be asking, then answering them? I wonder if that approach could catch on. If a coach doesn’t get asked the questions he wants to be asked, he just asks them himself.

JB: I could see old Torts doing that. And then getting in a fight with himself. “Stop coaching, John.” Speaking of whom, I kinda miss old Torts. Apparently new Torts is the media’s best friend in Vancouver. Get a load of what they’re writing about him these days: “He just seems to answer the questions like he’s talking to a buddy on the street.” Like a buddy on the street! Though we’ll see how long that lasts. Once the playoffs start, it wouldn’t surprise me if talking to his buddy on the street ends up looking like this:

Goalie nods: Murray, Neuvirth get the call at Heinz Field

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When the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers take their long-time rivalry outside on Saturday night it will be Matt Murray and Michael Neuvirth getting the starts in goal for the teams.

For the Penguins, Murray getting the start is no shock at this point since he has clearly taken over the No. 1 job, starting 14 of the past 17 games the Penguins have played and currently owning some of the best numbers of any goalie in the league this season. His .925 save percentage that is currently fifth best in the NHL while his .935 save percentage during even-strength situations is tied for second best.

He has allowed just 10 goals in his past six starts.

The Penguins’ goaltending situation is still going to be one worth watching over the next couple of days leading up to the NHL trade deadline. With Murray as the guy in net trade speculation surrounding Marc-Andre Fleury has picked up, and even though general manager Jim Rutherford said earlier this week that he would prefer to keep Fleury, he mentioned on Friday that a decision resulting his short-term future will be made in the 24-48 hours leading up to the deadline.

Meanwhile, on the Philadelphia side, it will be Neuvirth getting another start as he tries to shake off the rust he has shown since returning to the lineup from an injury that sidelined him for a large portion of the season. Since returning he has just an .894 save percentage in eight starts, continuing what has been an overall disappointing season for him in net.

He faced the Penguins earlier this season in a 5-4 loss, giving up two goals on 12 shots in relief of starter Steve Mason.

Elsewhere on Saturday…

— It will be Jonathan Bernier vs. Jonathan Quick on Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles when the Ducks and Kings face off.

— Phillip Grubauer gets the call for the Washington Capitals when they visit the Nashville Predators and try to prevent Filip Forsberg from recording yet another hat trick. No word yet on who is starting for the Predators.

— Joonas Korpisalo will be giving Sergei Bobrovsky the night off for the Columbus Blue Jackets when they host Thomas Greiss and the New York Islanders.

— The Rangers will go with Antti Raanta for their rivalry showdown with the New Jersey Devils. Cory Schneider goes for the Devils.

— Huge game in Toronto when it comes to the Atlantic Division standings with the Maple Leafs facing off against a Canadiens team they trail by only four points. It will be a Carey Price vs. Frederik Anderson goalie matchup.

Ryan Miller, suddenly the subject of trade speculation, will start for the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday when they face the San Jose Sharks. Look for Martin Jones to go for the Sharks.

Robin Lehner and Calvin Pickard go for the Sabres and Avalanche respectively on Saturday night in Denver.

Antoine Vermette’s 10-game suspension upheld by Gary Bettman

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The NHL announced on Saturday afternoon that commissioner Gary Bettman has upheld the 10-game suspension the league issued to Anaheim Ducks forward Antoine Vermette for an abuse of official incident that happened earlier this month.

Bettman met with Vermette on Thursday and heard his appeal, and has ruled that the 10-game ban will remain in place.

Vermette was ejected from the Ducks’ Feb. 14 game against the Minnesota Wild after he slashed linesman Shandor Alphonso in the leg following a face off. The NHL ruled that it was a Category II abuse of official foul, which carries an automatic 10-game suspension. He has already served four of those games. He will lose $97,222.22 in salary as a result of the entire suspension.

Vermette’s suspension is the third abuse of official suspension we have seen in the NHL over the past two years following the 20-game ban Dennis Wideman received last year (later reduced to 10 games) and the three-game suspension given to Arizona Coyotes defenseman Anthony DeAngelo this season.

After signing a two-year, $3.5 million contract with the Ducks in free agency, Vermette has eight goals and 14 assists in 58 games this season.

Blackhawks’ Hjalmarsson ‘day-to-day,’ will not play on Sunday

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 11:  Niklas Hjalmarsson #4 of the Chicago Blackhawks fires a shot against the Washington Capitals at the United Center on November 11, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Capitals defeated the Blackhawks 3-2 in overtime.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Just about the only downside to the Chicago Blackhawks’ latest win, a 6-3 dismantling of the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night, was the injury suffered by defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson.

He ended up leaving the game after taking just four shifts in the first period and did not return.

Along with missing almost all of that game, he will also be out of the lineup on Sunday when the Blackhawks look to continue their recent hot streak when they host the St. Louis Blues.

In 60 games this season Hjalmarsson has five goals and nine assists while mostly playing alongside Duncan Keith. On Thursday the Blackhawks had seven defensemen in the lineup and relied on Michal Rozsival to fill some of the minutes left vacated by Hjalmarsson. He ended up scoring his first goal of the season in the win.

The Blackhawks have been on a roll over the past few weeks, winning eight of their past nine games and scoring at least four goals in every win during that stretch.

They will miss Hjalmarsson on Sunday, but it seems to only be a short-term issue.

Kris Letang won’t play in outdoor game; Schultz game-time decision

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 17:  Kris Letang #58 of the Pittsburgh Penguins talks before a faceoff during the game against Colorado Avalanche at PPG Paints Arena on October 17, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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An already shorthanded Pittsburgh Penguins defense is going to be without another key player on Saturday when Kris Letang misses their Stadium Series game against the Philadelphia Flyers due to an upper body.

Coach Mike Sullivan announced the news following the team’s morning skate and would only add that Letang remains day-to-day with an upper body injury.

Letang, the Penguins’ best defenseman, played more than 28 minutes in their most recent game, a 3-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday night.

In 41 games this season he has five goals and 29 assists. Ron Hainsey, recently acquired in a trade with the Hurricanes, is going to have to immediately take on a pretty substantial role with his new team.

Anytime the Penguins are without Letang it’s a big deal because of how impactful he is on the blue line, but it is an even bigger issue now given the injury situation they are dealing with. Trevor Daley and Olli Maatta are both sidelined for what will most likely be the remainder of the regular season.

Justin Schultz, a game-time decision on Saturday night according to Sullivan, has missed the past three games due to a concussion.