For those wondering how Brendan Shanahan would handle repeat offenders under his watch, wonder no more: Edmonton Oilers’ defenseman Andy Sutton was suspended today for eight games for his charging Alexei Ponikarovsky on Wednesday night.
We learned yesterday that Sutton had waived his right to an in-person hearing signaling that the suspension could be lengthy. Within the official NHL explanation, Shanahan explains that the suspension length is due in large part to Sutton’s prior supplemental discipline history (in addition to Sutton charging on the play). He also clarified that they also took into account that Ponikarovsky was NOT injured on the play.
Can you imagine what the suspension would have been if Ponikarovsky was injured on the play?
Check out the league’s explanation and let us know what you think. Did the league do enough to a guy who has repeatedly crossed the line? Or is eight games enough for a play that didn’t cause severe injury to an opponent?
The Florida Panthers and their management took full advantage of a free day in the Big Apple as they took to the great outdoors for a 90-minute practice. It might be a man-made outdoor rink, but Saturday afternoon’s practice in Central Park brought back plenty of childhood memories for the Florida Panthers.
Panthers’ head coach Kevin Dineen explained that days like this are a good opportunity for a team to share some special experiences together. “It’s a hard schedule and at the end of the year a day like this will stick out as special,” Dineen told the Sun Sentinal. “There are a lot of smiles out there, you get back to your youth and get to enjoy.”
It wasn’t just the coach that enjoyed the chance to shake things up. Stephen Weiss admitted that the six-month season can wear on players and things like Saturday’s practice help break up the grind. “An 82-game schedule can become monotonous at times doing the same things over and over again,” Weiss said. “This is nice to refocus and certainly breaks it up and brings you back to your roots when you were a kid, and puts a smile on your face.”
If there’s any team that deserves a fun practice these days, it’s the Panthers. The Panthers are tied for the top spot in the Eastern Conference going into Saturday evening and have to be considered one of the most surprising stories of the year. Dineen said that this is one of those things that will stick out as something special when the season’s over; if they keep this up, they’re going to have plenty of things to remember from this extraordinary season.
Philadelphia head coach Peter Laviolette announced today that Ilya Bryzgalov will get his fifth straight start tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning. There were some questions whether Sergei Bobrovsky would get the opportunity to start since Bryzgalov played in back-to-back games on Wednesday and Thursday, but it looks like the back-up will have to wait his time.
Laviolette was making a concerted effort to split up the ice-time between the two Russian netminders early in the season. Yet lately, the Flyers have been winning with Bryzgalov—and the head coach has no plans on messing with a good thing.
“He’s rested, he’s ready — he’s playing,” Laviolette told NHL.com. “It’s a chance to get Bryz back in the nets. We brought him here for that reason. He’s been winning games and we’re going to put him back in there. Doesn’t have anything to do with Tampa. I think it’s different than what I said that last time, because we were playing the Penguins, they were the No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference and we wanted to put Bryz in there…”
It’s pretty clear that Bryzgalov is going to get the benefit of the doubt when the guy is making $51 million over the next nine seasons. He may have been “lost in the woods” earlier this season, but he’s turned his game around and helped the Flyers win four straight games. If the team keeps up this kind of play in front of Bryzgalov, it might be a while until Bobrovsky gets another extended look between the pipes.
The team isn’t calling it a concussion (it’s an upper-body injury), but Mike Richards is still recovering from the hit on the chin he took from Sean Bergenheim that seemed to daze him a week ago. He continues to ride the exercise bike and has been increasing his workouts, but his return is still not imminent.
Richards was seen this afternoon after the Kings pregame skate in preparation for LA’s game against the Stars tonight at Staples Center. Richards spoke with the media and was asked if he’d be joining the team on their upcoming four-game road trip to the Eastern time zone. “I’m not going to start with them,” Richards told LA Kings Insider. “I hope to join them at some point during the trip. I’d like to elaborate on it, but there’s not much to really say.’’
So the update is really a non-update.
The sooner Richards returns to the lineup, the better things will be for the Kings. The team has a 0-3 record without their new centerman and has had a plenty of trouble scoring goals lately. The goal scoring woes actually extend further than just the last three games, so the last thing they need is for their leading goal-scorer to be out for an extended period of time. The Kings are currently dead last in the NHL in scoring and without Richards; they’ve had a hard time finding a line that can consistently bring pressure like the Kopitar line.
It’s not like things are going to get easier for the Kings either. After tonight’s game against the Stars, their road trip includes dates with both the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings. Los Angeles has been careful not to rush Richards—but they could certainly use him sooner rather than later.
Every player on every team will tell you that every game during the season is important. But for the Dallas Stars, the next few weeks will be especially important as they try to keep their head above water without their emerging netminder, Kari Lehtonen.
No pressure there Mr. Raycroft.
There was a positive development for Stars fans as Lehtonen was back on the ice this morning for the first time since leaving in the first period of a game against the Coyotes two weeks ago. Since then he’s missed four games and has been receiving treatment on his strained groin from team trainers. Today, he hit the ice.
Head coach Glen Gulutzan shared today with Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News that it’ll still be awhile before we see Lehtonen return to game action. “…Lehts skated today for the first time, so we don’t think we’ll have Lehts before Christmas,” Gulutzan told Heika. “But after Christmas he should be a game player for us. We’ve got these next seven games before the Christmas break, so we’re focused on those.”
Gulutzan understands that the schedule over the next two weeks will be much tougher than it’s been since Lehtonen went down with his injury. After tonight’s game in Los Angeles, the Stars head to the East Coast for the New York area trifecta, before heading home for a three-game homestand. No team in the tight Western Conference can afford a long losing streak—the Stars are no different.
Dallas has been able to tread water thus far without Lehtonen as they’ve gone 2-2 without their netminder. Anyone that follows the Stars understands that Lehtonen has been the backbone of the team over the last two seasons. It’s not just the number of saves he’s been able to make over the last two seasons; it’s the quality of the saves and their timeliness.
They’ll need Raycroft to do his best Kari impersonation this December if they want to compete for a playoff spot in April.