It probably wasn’t what the management group of the U.S. men’s Olympic hockey team wanted to see: Phil Kessel, headed for Sochi after tonight’s game, getting into a scuffle with Vancouver Canucks’ forward Alex Burrows.
Kessel and Burrows came together in the second period along the boards, throwing a healthy combination of cross checks and glove punches at each other before finally being separated. It started with a slash and a body check from Burrows on Kessel, then a cross check, then a slash from Kessel on Burrows and some more jousting between the two combatants.
Kessel, the Maple Leafs forward, is on pace for his best season in the NHL. He was at 30 goals and 63 points in 59 games before tonight’s meeting with the Canucks.
The U.S. hockey team is already going through an anxious time right now, with word the development that Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty, also named to the U.S. squad for Sochi, suffered a lower-body injury in a heavy collision with the net in Saturday’s game against Carolina.
It’s going to be interesting to see if Hammond can replicate the success he had last season, when he came out of nowhere to go 20-1-2 with a 1.79 GAA and .941 save percentage, and finish seventh in Vezina voting.