Fighting for home ice: Habs, Bolts meet tonight in likely playoff preview


Barring some sort of stunning collapse — or ascension, depending on your perspective — the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning are going to meet in the opening round of this year’s playoffs.

Which makes tonight’s game in Tampa so interesting.

The two sides will meet for the fourth and final time of the season at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, with the Bolts holding a 2-0-1 edge through the first three games.

Montreal heads into tonight’s action sitting second in the Atlantic Division with 93 points through 76 games played. Tampa is two points back, with 91, but has a game in hand and knows a win tonight would have huge implications for home ice advantage in the opening round.

“We’re fighting with them for home ice,” Steve Stamkos said, per “It’s going to be a playoff atmosphere. … We’re not worried about the playoffs now, we’re just worried about playing hockey and getting as many points to finish as high as we can.”

Lightning-Canadiens is hardly a storied postseason rivalry, but the two do have some history. The Bolts dispatched of the Habs in four straight games in the 2003-04 Eastern Conference semifinals, a series that current Habs Andrei Markov and Francis Bouillon participated in.

Tampa Bay would go on to win its first and only Stanley Cup that spring.

Talk of historical playoff matchups and potential home ice is a tad premature, though. Neither team has clinched a spot yet — though both could get in with a win tonight — and, according to Lightning coach Jon Cooper, this evening’s game is all about the points.

“It’s hard not to put emphasis on the game because we’re, what, two points behind them?,” Cooper said, per the Lightning website. “I don’t know how things are going to play out in the end here, but beating them would sure be a nice rallying point for out team.

“A four-point game? That’s what that one is.”

Sens demote former first-rounder Puempel

Matt Puempel
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Looks like Matt Puempel won’t be making the leap after all.

Puempel, the subject of Ottawa’s “looking to make the leap” profile during our Team of the Day series, has been sent down to AHL Binghamton one day prior to the Sens’ opener against Buffalo.

Puempel, taken by Ottawa in the first round (24th overall) at the ’11 draft, made his big-league debut last season and looked as though he’d stick around — only to suffer a high ankle sprain after 13 games, and miss the rest of the season.

The 22-year-old came into this year’s camp looking to secure a full-time position at the big league level, but was beaten out by Shane Prince for the final forward spot on the roster.

To be fair, contract status probably played a role. Prince would’ve had to clear waivers to get down to Bingo, whereas Puempel didn’t.

A former 30-goal scorer in the American League, Puempel is expected to get another look with Ottawa this season.

Report: Torres won’t appeal 41-game suspension


Sounds like Raffi Torres is accepting his punishment.

Per Sportsnet, Torres won’t appeal his 41-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head of Anaheim’s Jakob Silfverberg.

The report comes just days after the NHL’s Department of Player Safety levied one of the longest disciplinary rulings in league history, citing both the severity of the Silfverberg hit and Torres’ lengthy history of suspensions, fines and warnings.

There was some thought, however, that Torres would try to challenge the ruling.


He does have a history of success in that department. In 2012,Torres successfully appealed his suspension for a headshot on Chicago’s Marian Hossa, and had his punishment reduced from 25 games to 21.

Torres also isn’t considered a “repeat offender” under the current collective bargaining agreement, as his last suspension came in 2013.

Of course, part of that clean record is due to the fact he hasn’t played much. Torres has largely been sidelined by injury for the last two seasons, missing all of last year with knee problems.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman delved further into the repeat offender thing in his latest 30 Thoughts column:

If you read the relevant sections of the CBA, the league takes the position that the repeat offender status is only applicable to fines. Repeaters are fined on a per-game basis, non-repeaters on a per-day basis. (The former is more expensive, because there are fewer games than days in an NHL season.) However, if you go to Section 18.2, among the factors taken into account are, “the status of the offender and, specifically, whether the Player has a history of being subject to Supplementary Discipline for On-Ice Conduct.”

So, in the NHL’s view, a player’s history is relevant, even if longer than 18 months ago.

Should the report prove accurate and Torres doesn’t appeal, he will be eligible to return to action on Jan. 14, when the Sharks take on the Oilers.