Happy returns: Red Wings edge Panthers 4-3

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The Detroit Red Wings got Henrik Zetterberg and Justin Abdelkader back on Saturday, and as an added bonus, they also beat the Florida Panthers 4-3.

Zetterberg himself yielded immediate dividends, as he scored his 12th goal of the season. Abdelkader didn’t collect a point tonight, but the Red Wings are likely happy to have that physical force back in the lineup (three hits).

Maybe tonight’s victory doesn’t sound very impressive out of context – Florida has now lost three games in a row – but the Panthers beat Detroit twice in a row, so there must be a feeling of relief for the Red Wings.

It’s another relief that the Red Wings have been curiously stronger on the road (now 12-3-3 away from Hockeytown) compared to how mediocre they have been in Detroit (6-10-6), because they’re readying for a tough run of games. They face the Predators in Nashville on Monday, “host” Toronto outdoors on Wednesday and then play five straight games on the road against tough Pacific Division competition.

At least they’re getting healthier as that tough stretch (and the 2014 Winter Classic) approaches.

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?