Mike Halford

Some key takeaways from the NHL upholding Wideman’s suspension

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Here are a few of the more intriguing aspects of commissioner Gary Bettman’s decision to uphold Dennis Wideman’s 20-game suspension for hitting linesman Don Henderson:

The NHL had access to Wideman’s text messages

This is the development that’s getting the most play right now, especially on social media.

In his ruling, Bettman writes “although [Wideman] made much at the hearing about the apologies he had already made to Mr. Henderson, the sincerity of those apologies rings somewhat hollow given the text message he sent to a teammate on February 2 —- after the conclusion of the hearing before Mr. Campbell —- that “[t]he only problem and the only reason I’m here is cause the stupid refs and stupid media.”

The NHL cast doubt on whether Wideman was actually concussed or not

In Bettman’s cross-examination of neuropsychologist Dr. Paul Comper — who the NHLPA used to analyze/interview Wideman, and later called to testify as an expert in clinical neuropsychology — the following occurred:

Q. And you would agree with me that Mr. Wideman certainly had, at least potentially, the motive to exaggerate his symptoms in order to obtain a report that said he wasn’t responsible for his actions, that’s at least a possibility, isn’t it?

A. It’s a possibility.

Q And you didn’t discuss that in your report, did you?

A. No.

The league also took issue with the fact that neither Comper nor Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher — also brought in by the NHLPA — physically evaluated Wideman. Both spoke with the Calgary defenseman via FaceTime, and took his word for how he felt at the time.

The league had also previously seemed skeptical of Wideman’s concussion.

“It is accepted for the purposes of this decision that [Wideman] was later diagnosed as having suffered a concussion,” the NHL explained at the time of the original 20-game suspension ruling. “However, that fact even accepted as true, cannot excuse Wideman’s subsequent actions.

“First, although he appears to get up slowly from being checked, Wideman skates steadily and purposefully to his bench, taking a half dozen strides to get there. Wideman also demonstrates his continued awareness of his circumstances and surroundings when, upon approaching the Calgary blueline, he raises his stick and taps it on the ice to alert his teammates that he’s coming off for a line change.”

The league also made mention of the fact Wideman refused medical attention while on the bench, and remained in the game.

The league didn’t want a “concussion defense precedent” to be set

This ties into the above. Bettman writes:

In short, the record as a whole does not support the contention that Mr. Wideman’s actions were the result of confusion, a failure of “impulse control” or a loss of balance.

Moreover, to find on a record such as this one that the Player was not responsible for the consequences of his actions would set a precedent that could be easily manipulated in the future in a way that would make the game more dangerous for all participants, including players.

The thought here, obviously, is that a Pandora’s Box could be opened in which players would excuse their on-ice behavior — and transgressions — because they’d just been shaken up, with that influencing their decision-making.

The NHLPA didn’t asked for a reduced suspension. It asked for no suspension at all.

From Bettman:

Although the NHLPA acknowledged that I have the authority to reduce the suspension imposed by Mr. Campbell, the Union did not actually request a reduced suspension, maintaining at all times that no suspension is warranted.

This is an interesting development, if only because the union has successfully reduced suspensions in the past — in 2012, the PA got Raffi Torres’ 25-game suspension reduced to 21. Now, the circumstances are different in the Wideman case, because asking for a reduction rather than no suspension could be seen as an admission of guilt.

However, it’s worth noting that had the suspension been reduced, Wideman could’ve been back in action sooner. He’s already sat out seven games.

Goalie nods: Streaking Lundqvist looks to stymie Chicago

Henrik Lundqvist
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Henrik Lundqvist will aim to continue his stellar run of play tonight when the Rangers host the Blackhawks in New York.

Lundqvist is 5-1-0 in the month of February — allowing three goals or fewer in each of his six appearances — but it’s his recent run over the last three games that’s really impressive.

Monday, Feb. 8: stopped 27 of 28 shots in a 2-1 win over New Jersey

Wednesday, Feb. 10: stopped all 34 shots faced in a 3-0 shutout win over Pittsburgh

Sunday, Feb 14: stopped 21 of 22 shots in a 3-1 win over Philadelphia.

Unsurprisingly, Lundqvist’s run of good play has bolstered his overall numbers on the year: 28-14-4 record, 2.29 GAA, .924 save percentage. He does certainly face a tall order tonight, though, against a Chicago team that exploded for seven goals in Monday’s beating of the Maple Leafs.

The ‘Hawks will have Corey Crawford in goal.

Elsewhere…

Ben Scrivens will look to bounce back from a tough performance last time out, as he and the Habs take on Colorado. Semyon Varlamov starts for the Avs.

Devan Dubnyk looks for his second straight win tonight in Calgary. The Flames will go back to Jonas Hiller after he was hooked on Monday against Anaheim. Calgary also announced today that Karri Ramo is done for the year with a torn ACL.

Oilers lose potential trade chip Gryba (knee) for one month

Anders Nilsson, Eric Gryba, Matt Hendricks
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The knee injury suffered by physical blueliner Eric Gryba in Edmonton’s loss to Anaheim last night will keep him sidelined for at least a month, the club announced on Thursday.

It could be a costly ailment with regards to GM Peter Chiarelli’s trade deadline strategy. More, from the Edmonton Journal:

[Gryba’s] an unrestricted free agent this summer, though, which makes him a prime candidate to be moved at the Feb. 29 trade deadline. He’s also a strong, experienced reliable defenceman, which also makes him very attractive to any team looking for blue-line depth in the post-season.

On the basis of those points alone he should be advised against buying any green bananas between now and the end of the month, but Gryba has no plans to change his routine based on probabilities.

“I have no idea what will happen, I try not to think about it,” he said. “Obviously you have to think about it a little, but you try not to let the mind wander too much because the possibilities are endless, anything can happen.”

Gryba, 27, is a big body at 6-foot-4, 228 pounds and has been a consistent presence in the Oilers lineup this year, averaging just under 18 minutes in 53 games played, with a goal and six points.

He’s also got a handful of postseason experience, appearing in 10 games for Ottawa from 2012-15.

 

Malkin ‘close’ to rejoining Pens practice, but no timetable for return

Evgeni Malkin
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Evgeni Malkin has missed Pittsburgh’s last six games, and he’s going to miss at least a couple more.

On Wednesday, Malkin was not out with his teammates for practice due to a lingering lower-body injury. There was, however, some positive news on his rehab — as head coach Mike Sullivan reported that Malkin has skated on his own for the last two days.

“It went well, so the next step is for him to join the team,” Sullivan explained, per the Pens’ Twitter. “He’s close.”

The Penguins have a pair of road games — Thursday versus Detroit, Saturday versus Tampa Bay — before heading out on a mini two-game road trip through Buffalo (on Sunday) and Boston (next Wednesday).

That Bruins game could be one to keep an eye on. It would give Malkin another week to continue skating and get some practices in, though the club could very well hold him out until the following Saturday (Feb. 27), when the Pens host the Jets at Consol.

On the year, Malkin has 49 points in 49 games and was producing exceptionally well prior to getting hurt, with 15 points in his last 13 games.

Extinguished: Flames lose Ramo to season-ending ACL tear

Calgary Flames goalie Karri Ramo is checked on by a trainer after Ramo's collision with San Jose Sharks' Joonas Donskoi during the third period of an NHL hockey game in San Jose, Calif., Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. The Flames defeated the Sharks 6-5 in a shootout. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
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Calgary’s troublesome goaltending situation just got an awful lot worse.

Karri Ramo, who leads the team with 33 starts this year, has been ruled out for the remainder of the campaign with a torn ACL, GM Brad Treliving confirmed on Wednesday.

Ramo suffered the injury last Thursday in an eventual 6-5 shootout win over San Jose. Late in the third period, Mark Giordano tripped Joonas Donskoi and sent the Sharks forward crashing into Ramo. The veteran netminder stayed down for a while before requiring help off the ice, and was immediately replaced by Jonas Hiller.

Ramo’s loss will undoubtedly hurt the Flames. Despite a rough start that led to him being waived — and sent to the minors — he rebounded to play some good hockey in December and January, posting a .919 save percentage.

Hiller will likely carry the load for the remainder of the year, with the recently recalled Joni Ortio backing up.

As for Ramo’s future… well, it’s murky to say the least. A pending UFA, he will now head to market on the heels of a pretty significant injury, and with a less-than-stellar statistical resume. While his play over the last few months has been solid, Ramo is only 17-18-1 on the year, with a .909 save percentage and 2.63 GAA.

Related: After going unclaimed on waivers, Ramo’s ‘probably one of the hottest goalies in the NHL’