Author: Matt Reitz

Dane Byers, Grant Clitsome

You make the call: Dane Byers may be hearing from Mr. Shanahan


Another day, another questionable shot to the head by an NHL player. This time, its Dane Byers landing a shoulder/elbow to the head of Sharks center Andrew Desjardins only three minutes into the second period of Columbus’ game against San Jose. Desjardins’ teammate Bard Winchester immediately came to his aid by trying to punch Byers in the face and Byers received a match penalty for “intent to injure,” but the stiffer punishment could come from Brendan Shanahan in the coming days.

Unfortunately, Desjardins headed to the locker room and did not return for the final 17 minutes of the first period. For Byers’ part, he was playing in his fifth game this season and the 11th contest of his career. In 11 games though, he’s already been suspended once by the league for an illegal hit in 2009 while a member of the New York Rangers.

That’s right—he’s only played 11 career games and his current five game stretch for the Blue Jackets is his first cup of coffee in the NHL since 2009; yet he’s still a “repeat offender.”

Take a look at the hit and let us know what you think. Do you think Byers deserves a suspension? If so, how long should he be forced to sit? The comment section beckons…

Dineen says Versteeg “needs to play a higher level of hockey”

Vancouver Canucks v Florida Panthers
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Things aren’t going as well for the Florida Panthers as they were through the first three months of the season. The Southeast Division leading Panthers have been slumping and they only have a single win since the calendar flipped to 2012. The frustration came to a head when head coach Kevin Dineen sent a strong message to Kris Versteeg when he benched the top-line winger for extended periods during the third period against the Penguins on Friday night.

First thing is first: Versteeg, Stephen Weiss, and Tomas Fleischmann have been nothing short of amazing for the Panthers this season. For those looking for a reason for the Panthers shockingly strong start, look no further than the trio that has formed on of the best lines in the entire NHL.

Spearheading the line has been the comeback of Kris Versteeg. He’s leading the team with 17 goals and 39 points as he looks to rediscover the form that made him a Calder Trophy finalist in 2009. But lately, his head coach has seen his play starting to slip.

Harvey Fialkov of the Sun-Sentinel asked Dineen about his decision to limit Versteeg’s ice-time on Friday night. “I think that was a pretty strong reflection of what my feelings were on his play and that’s not a one-game snapshot,” Dineen said. “I don’t do that based on one game. I think there’s been a stretch of games where he … is such an important leadership role for this team, [he] needs to play a higher level of hockey.”

The message? Great start Kris… but there’s still three more months to play.

Versteeg still thinks the line is getting chances and it’s only a matter of time before things turn around for the trio. “We still feel we’ve had a ton of chances. I don’t know how many posts and nets we’ve missed in the last 3-4 games. If one of those go in, it could change the whole dynamic of the confidence for our team and line, especially.”

Dineen’s allocation of ice-time is the best way to express his displeasure with Versteeg’s recent play. We’ll see on Monday night against the Bruins if the message was received.

Wheeler hospitalized after taking shot in throat

Johnny Boychuk, Blake Wheeler

There was a frightening moment in the middle of the second period of the Jets/Devils game when Blake Wheeler took a slapshot from Petr Sykora straight to the throat. Wheeler was forced straight to the locker room and was unable to return to the ice as New Jersey escaped with a 2-1 victory.

After the game, Jets head coach Claude Noel shared a little more about Wheeler’s injury. He explained after the game that Wheeler was forced to the hospital to undergo additional tests. Thankfully, all of the tests came back negative and the team is saying that all will be well with the power forward. In fact, the word is that he’ll be able to travel with the team to Ottawa for their game on Monday night against the Senators.

Wheeler has taken has game to a new level this season. The former Minnesota Golden Gopher is starting to fulfill the potential that made him the fifth overall pick in the 2005 Entry Draft. He’s leading the Jets with 23 assists, 32 points, and a plus 10 rating. It may have taken a few years (and a few teams), but he’s finally starting to play like the guy who had scouts salivating over his impressive mixture of size, strength, and skill.

For anyone watching the game live, they know it looked like it could have been much worse.