Mike Halford

Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman controls the puck against the Anaheim Ducks during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013, in Anaheim, Calif. Ducks won the game 3-2. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

Wideman text message saga takes another turn

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One of the most contentious issues in Dennis Wideman‘s appeal of a 20-game suspension for hitting linesman Don Henderson — NHL commissioner Gary Bettman obtaining Wideman’s cell phone and text records, and using them as evidence — has become a real can of worms.

The latest issue? Who exactly Wideman was in conversation with.

The key text message in question, where Wideman wrote “the only reason I’m here is the stupid refs and stupid media,” was sent to Flames captain Mark Giordano, the NHL told TSN.

But in Wideman’s appeal to third-party neutral arbitrator James Oldham, Oldham — who reduced the suspension to 10 games — suggested the text was sent to Columbus forward Gregory Campbell.

That’s Gregory Campbell, the son of NHL senior VP Colin Campbell, who handed down the 20-game suspension.

So yeah.

Awkward.

Appropriately, the parties involved have engaged in something resembling a game of telephone to explain their positions. In a fairly lengthy interview with the Dispatch, Gregory Campbell admitted he exchanged texts with his “good friend” Wideman following the incident.

More:

“Obviously my dad made the ruling. Dennis leaned on me for support. As a friend and as a player, I support Dennis. I know what kind of person he is.

“They took his phone and they had exchanges between him and I on the phone.”

Campbell and Wideman have never played together, but they’re part of the same workout group and spend their off-seasons in the same Canadian city.

“He knew my dad was doing the hearing and wanted to lean on me for support,” Campbell said. “I fully supported Dennis. I know it’s a tough call, but I know the type of person he is. I didn’t think it was intentional.”

Campbell said he doesn’t recall the specifics of his conversations with Wideman, so there’s no way of knowing if he received a “stupid refs, stupid media” text.

Wideman, in a conversation with Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos, lent credence to notion Giordano was the one that received the text in question:

(It should be noted the possibility exists that Campbell and Giordano received the same type of “stupid refs, stupid media” text, and that both may have been accessed by Bettman and Oldham.)

Regardless of who received the text in question, or how it was analyzed and interpreted, this whole situation has cast further doubt on the appeal process.

There’s some serious undermining at hand, and one has to think everything — especially the “turn over your cell phone” part — will be scrutinized when (or, if) the NHL and NHLPA decide to review how the suspension appeal process works.

Related: NHL Officials’ Association ‘strongly disagrees’ with the decision to reduce Wideman’s suspension

Reminder: Hockeyville nominations close tonight

HockeyVille

We’re roughly 10 hours away from the close of nominations for the 2016 Kraft Hockeyville contest.

Last year, Cambria County War Memorial Arena in Johnstown, PA., became the first-ever winner of the Kraft Hockeyville contest, winning $150,000 of arena upgrades while getting the opportunity to host a preseason NHL game between the Penguins and Lightning.

This year, a new collection of rinks will compete for the title.

In April, 10 communities will be selected for a national round-robin vote and, throughout the month, the field will be whittled away until a winner has been voted in. On April 30, the winning community will be announced, and receive both $150,000 in arena upgrades and the chance to host a NHL preseason game in September.

But before all that happens — nominate your rink by end of day. The deadline closes at Midnight EST.

To read more, head over to the Kraft Hockeyville site. Or check it out on Twitter @HockeyVilleUSA.

Pens tough guy Sestito will ‘go after Dubinsky as much as I can’

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 06:  Tom Sestito #47 of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Jordin Tootoo #22 of the New Jersey Devils fight in the first period on March 6, 2016 at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Pretty interesting dynamics at play ahead of tomorrow’s Blue Jackets-Penguins game in Columbus.

The history, and rivalry, between Sidney Crosby and Brandon Dubinsky is pretty well established, and Jackets head coach John Tortorella’s made no mistake about his disdain for Pittsburgh’s “whining.”

Now, Pens tough guy Tom Sestito — who Tortorella used to coach in Vancouver — has thrown himself into the mix.

In speaking with subscription-based website DKOnPittsburghSports.com, Sestito spoke about his role protecting Pens captain Sidney Crosby.

That, of course, meant talking about Dubinsky, who’s been a thorn in Crosby’s side for the past several years and, earlier this season, was suspended one game for cross-checking Crosby.

“Definitely,” Sestito said of relishing his role, per the Columbus Dispatch. “If I can deter guys from taking runs at Sid, that’s my job. And if they’re taking runs at him, I’ll take runs at their stars.

“I’ll go after Dubinsky as much as I can.”

The two teams last met on Dec. 28, a game in which Dubinsky fought Eric Fehr. That contest didn’t have the Sestito factor, though — the journeyman enforcer only signed an NHL deal with the Pens at the start of February, and has played in just two games thus far.

Detroit signs University of Maine standout Renouf

Colorado Avalanche v Detroit Red Wings
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Detroit had some success with collegiate free agent defensmen a few years ago with Danny DeKeyser, so why not try it again?

On Thursday, the club announced it had reached an agreement with University of Maine product Dan Renouf — a two-year, entry-level contract that will kick in next season.

For the remainder of this year, Renouf — an undrafted free agent — will play with AHL Grand Rapids on an amateur tryout basis.

Renouf, 21, has spent the last three years with Maine, and led the team in blueliner scoring this season with 15 points in 38 games. At 6-foot-3 and 208 pounds, the junior has good size and will look to follow in the footsteps of a former Maine teammate and d-man — Ben Hutton, who skated alongside Renouf for the Black Bears last season.

Hutton is in the midst of a banner rookie campaign in Vancouver. The former fifth-round pick currently sits third among all NHL freshmen blueliners in points, with 22, while averaging 19:23 TOI per night.

Goalie nods: Dubnyk (illness) out, Kuemper in as Wild fight for playoff lives

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Minnesota comes into tonight’s action sitting two points back of Colorado for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference.

If the Wild want to draw level with the Avs, they’ll need their No. 2 goalie to come up big.

With Devan Dubnyk ruled out due to illness, Minnesota will go with Darcy Kuemper tonight as it hosts Edmonton at Xcel. Kuemper, who came on in relief of Dubnyk last game out — stopping all 18 shots in an eventual loss to St. Louis — has a bit of recent history on his side, as his last win came on Feb. 18 against these same Oilers, when he stopped 31 of 33 shots for just his sixth victory of the season.

The Wild could really use No. 7.

Tonight’s game is Minnesota’s last before setting out on a three-game eastern swing through Montreal, Ottawa and New Jersey. While it’s hardly a formidable trio, the Wild have struggled on the road this season — at 14-14-6, they have the 11th-worst away record in the league.

For the Oilers, Cam Talbot is likely to get the start in net.

Elsewhere…

Cam Ward versus Tuukka Rask as the ‘Canes visit Boston.

Robin Lehner, pulled in his last outing against the Rangers, goes back in as Buffalo travels to Montreal. Mike Condond starts for the Habs.

— The slumping Red Wings will hope the slumping Petr Mrazek will turn things around tonight, against Winnipeg. Michael Hutchinson goes for the Jets.

— After missing the last four games with a lower-body injury, Craig Anderson starts for Ottawa. Florida replies with Roberto Luongo.

Keith Kinkaid will continue to carry New Jersey’s starting load while Cory Scheider is sidelined with injury. The Devils are in San Jose to face the Sharks, who will start Martin Jones.