Jason Brough

Jake Virtanen

Virtanen gets two-game suspension for ‘late, forceful, blindside check’ on Polak


Canucks rookie forward Jake Virtanen has been suspended two games for what the NHL’s Department of Player Safety deemed a “late, forceful, blindside check” on Sharks defenseman Roman Polak.

The incident occurred last night in Vancouver. Virtanen received a five-minute major for interference, plus a game misconduct. Polak was shaken up on the play, but returned to action as San Jose went on to a 4-1 victory.

“What elevates this hit to merit supplemental discipline is its extremeness lateness and the predatory nature of the hit,” explained DoPS director Patrick Burke.

Virtanen, 19, will miss Thursday’s rematch in San Jose and also Friday’s game in Anaheim.

Okposo complains about ‘awful’ ice at Barclays Center

New York Islanders right wing Josh Bailey (12) and defenseman Calvin de Haan (44) defend against Carolina Hurricanes center Victor Rask (49) of Sweden in front of the crease, guarded by New York Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss (1) in the first period of an NHL hockey game in New York, Tuesday, March 29, 2016. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Add another item to the list of complaints about Barclays Center.

“Awful” was the word Islanders forward Kyle Okposo used to describe the ice during Tuesday’s 2-1 shootout win over Carolina.

“Can’t have it like that,” Okposo said, per the New York post. “It’s got to change. It’s got to be better than that.”

Especially with the playoffs set to start in a couple of weeks.

By the way, the announced attendance on Tuesday was just 13,733. Only Carolina (12,035) and Arizona (13,340) have averaged smaller crowds than the Isles have (13,524) this season.

Capacity for hockey at Barclays Center is 15,795.

The Isles’ average attendance was 15,334 last season, their final one at Nassau Coliseum.

Related: Isles’ attendance once again under the microscope

Suspended for the start of the playoffs? Keith offered in-person hearing


The defending champion Chicago Blackhawks could be without their playoff MVP for the start of the playoffs.

Duncan Keith has been offered an in-person hearing by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety for high-sticking Minnesota’s Charlie Coyle in the face last night.

An in-person hearing doesn’t guarantee that a suspension will be longer than five games, but it opens up the possibility. The Blackhawks have five games remaining in the regular season.

This is not the first time the veteran defenseman has faced a lengthy suspension around this point in the regular season. In 2011-12, Keith was suspended five games for elbowing Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin. The difference then is that the Blackhawks had seven games remaining, meaning he was able to return for the final two prior to the postseason.

The ‘Hawks are likely to face either Dallas or St. Louis in the first round.

Related: No doubt about it: Duncan Keith wins the Conn Smythe Trophy

Nielsen’s ‘first choice’ is to re-sign with Isles

New York Islanders center Frans Nielsen (51) celebrates after scoring in the second period of an NHL hockey game against the New Jersey Devils, Saturday, March 29, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Frans Nielsen is a popular answer to the question, “Who is the NHL’s most underrated player?”

The 31-year-old Islanders center is also a pending unrestricted free agent, one who’s in line for a significant raise from his current annual salary of just $3.5 million. This season, his 47 points are the third most on the team, behind only John Tavares and Kyle Okposo, Plus, he’s a valuable penalty killer.

Nielsen would like to re-sign with the Isles.

“I feel like I’m in a good spot here, we have a good team and hopefully we can work it out here,” he said, per the New York Post. “That, for sure, would be my first choice.”

But Nielsen is just one of many key players that Isles GM Garth Snow will need to decide on. Okposo is also a pending UFA. Tavares will need a new contract after the 2017-18 season. In fact, no Isles forward, save for Anders Lee, is signed past 2017-18.

Meanwhile, it’s still not clear what’s going to happen with d-man Travis Hamonic — if he’s traded this summer, what comes back in return? — and some even think the Isles are a dark horse to pursue Steven Stamkos should the Lightning captain go to market.

With Nielsen, term has the potential to be a sticking point. He turns 32 in April and the Isles have a number of talented young forwards in the system who will be knocking on the door very soon.

But, again, he wants to stay, and that can only help negotiations, assuming the Isles would like to re-sign him.

“I just feel that I’ve been through this rebuild with all these guys and we finally have a team here,” he said. “For me, my first choice is to stay here and to keep building this team toward a Stanley Cup.”

Flames sign Jankowski, who was ‘very much a project’ when he was drafted


The Calgary Flames have signed forward Mark Jankowski to an entry-level contract. The deal will begin next season. For now, he’ll report to AHL Stockton on an amateur try-out agreement.

Jankowski, 21, just wrapped up his senior season with Providence College. Had he not signed with the Flames he could’ve become a free agent on Aug. 15, a la Jimmy Vesey.

Jankowski was a controversial pick in 2012, when he was announced as Calgary’s 21st overall selection by then-Flames GM Jay Feaster.

“This is right off the board,” said TSN’s Bob McKenzie at the time. “This guy is very much a project.”

But Jankowski had a big fan in then-Calgary assistant GM John Weisbrod, who even compared him to one of the greatest Flames of all time.

“The athleticism. The skating. The hands. The fact that he’ll likely be playing at six-four, 215. I’ve said it to our scouts all week long — he’s Joe Nieuwendyk,” Weisbrod told Postmedia.

Weisbrod is now the assistant GM of the Canucks.

Jankowski had 15 goals and 25 assists in 38 games for the Friars this season.