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NHL, retired players reach $19M concussions settlement

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The National Hockey League announced a tentative $18.9 million settlement Monday with more than 300 retired players who sued the league and accused it of failing to protect them from head injuries or warning them of the risks involved with playing.

The lawsuit, consolidated in federal court in Minnesota, was by far the largest facing the league. The NHL, as it has for years, did not acknowledge any liability for the players’ claims in the proposed settlement and can terminate the deal if all 318 players or their estates don’t elect to participate.

The settlement is significantly less than the billion-dollar agreement reached between the NFL and its former players on the same issue of head injuries. Each player who opts in would receive $22,000 and could be eligible for up to $75,000 in medical treatment.

”The cash amount of $22,000, that’s small, but we were always looking for (medical) coverage to begin with,” said former player Reed Larson, who was among the first to sue the league over head injuries that could lead to the brain disease Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. ”The bottom line is this is monitoring, testing and hopefully help for players that will either have (CTE) now or could get it in the future.”

Players’ attorney Stuart Davidson said he knows there will be comparisons between the NHL and NFL settlements, even though they differ drastically.

”When you have a defendant who has spent millions of dollars litigating a case for four years to prove that nothing is wrong with getting your brain bashed in, you can only get so far,” Davidson told The Associated Press. ”I think it’s important for players who have an opportunity to settle their case with the NHL now to understand that before they get anything through a trial against the NHL it’s going to cost millions of dollars in experts to get there, and that’s going to have to be paid for before they see a penny from any recovery, assuming they win.”

An NHL spokesman said the league would not make any comment until after the opt-in period of 75 days for players. There were 146 players who added their names to the lawsuit as plaintiffs between November 2013 and this August and 172 more who joined as claimants.

In addition to the cash payment, the settlement includes neurological testing and assessment for players paid for by the league; up to $75,000 in medical treatment for players who test positive on two or more tests; and a ”Common Good Fund” for retired players in need, including those who did not participate in the litigation, worth $2.5 million.

Pittsburgh star Sidney Crosby, who has dealt with concussion problems throughout his career but is not involved in the lawsuit that includes only retired players, told reporters after practice the league, Players’ Association and others must all have a role in the issue.

”It’s something as players that we know that risk,” Crosby said. ”Obviously we know a lot more now than we did before, even a lot more than we did when I had my first one. It’s something you hope they can mutually agree on. It’s something that I think is important from both sides.”

Retired player Daniel Carcillo, one of the plaintiffs, urged players not to accept the settlement. In a series of tweets , he said players would be forced to see the same NHL and NHLPA doctors to determine if they’d be eligible for treatment.

Carcillo also asked for Wayne Gretzky’s thoughts: ”I want him to use his platform to help the men who protected him throughout his career. Lack of pressure from former players is a direct result of this insulting attempt at a settlement.”

Charles Zimmerman, who was a lead attorney for players, said he was most disappointed the lawsuit couldn’t assure future benefits for all retired players like in the NFL.

”I think it’s a very appropriate result and a good outcome in a very contested, hotly litigated matter,” Zimmerman said. ”The main goal in the case was to get medical testing and treatment for the players, something that the NHL wouldn’t agree to for the four years that we’d been litigating and that’s what we achieved.”

The settlement comes four months after a federal judge denied class-action status for the retired players, a significant victory for the league in the lawsuit filed in November 2013. U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson in July denied class-action status, citing ”widespread differences” in state laws about medical monitoring that would ”present significant case management difficulties.”

The bid for class-action status would have created one group of all living former NHL players and one group of all retired players diagnosed with a neurological disease, disorder or condition. Had Nelson certified the class action, more than 5,000 former players would have been able to join the case.

”It’s not surprising after the NHL prevailed on the class-action motion that there would have been movements in this direction,” NHLPA executive director Don Fehr told reporters in Toronto. ”I’m glad for the parties that it’s all over. Hopefully people can go on with their lives and now we can perhaps deal with these issues with the NHL without having to worry about the effect on the litigation.”

Davidson called Nelson’s decision a ”watershed moment” for the case and that players lost leverage as a result.

”It severely limited the damages to the NHL owners and benefits to the NHL players,” Vanderbilt University sports economic professor John Vrooman wrote in an email to the AP. ”This decision essentially forced the 140 (plus) players involved in the suit to settle and prevented the participation of all other potential litigants. So it will seem that both sides ‘won’ in what was really a lopsided victory for the owners. It’s just that all of the owners won by gaining current and future protection from damages and a minor fraction of the players won something that they would have zero chance in obtaining in isolation versus the league.”

Settlement talks ramped back up in July with an agreement reached Nov. 7.

Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly have, on multiple occasions, said the lawsuit had no merit.

”When it comes to focusing on concussions and trying to understand them and how to treat them, we’ve been leaders in the field,” Bettman told the AP in May. ”And that gets completely lost in the rhetoric of the litigation, and I don’t like discussing the litigation. There is a sense because it gets sensationalized that the reality of our position with player safety is somehow at odds with the reality of the science and the medicine and it’s not true. We study it very closely.”

The NFL settlement covers more than 20,000 retired players, and lawyers expect payouts to top $1.5 billion over 65 years. As of last month , the NFL concussion lawsuit claims panel has approved more than $500 million in awards and paid out $330 million.

AP Hockey Writer John Wawrow and Associated Press Writer Amy Forliti contributed to this report.

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Sharks’ Vlasic makes wild goal-line save

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The difference between a goal and a save can come down to mere millimeters sometimes.

This one, however, came down to a razor’s edge.

The Boston Bruins came within less than of scoring a goal in the first period of their game against the San Jose Sharks on NBCSN on Monday when Charlie McAvoy‘s point shot flirted with the edge of the goal line at the 7:32 mark.

The puck appeared to teeter on the goal line before Marc-Edouard Vlasic swatted out of the net. You be the judge on the above video evidence. It’s so incredibly close.

To the referee’s credit, he immediately waved no goal, a testament to his hawkish eyesight. He was right. Video review determined that the puck, somehow, did not cross the line.

The game continued until the 10:13 mark before the play was reviewed.

The call didn’t seem to faze the Bruins, who scored three straight and led 3-1 after the first period.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Kucherov, Vasilevskiy lead Lightning clinic against Blue Jackets

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Here’s some homework: find a superlative that hasn’t been mentioned in the same breath as the Tampa Bay Lightning’s success this season.

Go ahead, we’ll wait…

The class of the NHL was dishing out harsh lessons once again on Monday night, putting on a clinic against the Columbus Blue Jackets — a good hockey team, by all accounts — who were completely muzzled by the NHL’s best team in a 5-1 loss on NBCSN.

No team sucks the soul out of an opponent quite like the Lightning. No goalie steals their will away like Andrei Vasilevskiy. No one demoralizes defenses like Nikita Kucherov.

Is it even in question anymore of who the Vezina will be handed to in June, or the Hart at this point, too?

In Kucherov’s case, you might as well give the Art Ross now, as well. He entered the game with 94 points in 59 games and exited with 99 in 60 after an incredible five-point night.

‘Kuch’ scored twice in the first period, both silky smooth goals, set up Steven Stamkos on the power play in the second period, and then provided both primary assists on Brayden Point‘s 34-second brace in to begin in third.

Vasilevskiy can barely be scored on these days after he made 39 saves in Tampa’s sixth straight win.

The 24-year-old ‘tender came within 1:45 of his third straight shutout. He showed no love for the Dallas Stars in a 32-save blanking on Valentine’s Day last Thursday and then put up a 20-save performance against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.

The Russian once again looked calm and clinical in Monday’s win, much like he’s done all season.

The Blue Jackets came into the game on fire, winning five of their past six to move into third in the Metropolitan Division (tied with Pittsburgh). The Blue Jackets were 0-for-4 on the power play, including a dismal four-minute stretch in the third after Kucherov clipped Seth Jones in the face with a high stick.

Both teams play again on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, while winning isn’t a concern after Tampa took it’s 45th ‘W’ of the season on Monday, what will be of some concern heading forward for the Lightning is the status of Victor Hedman, who didn’t emerge for the second period and was ruled out by the team with a lower-body injury.

Jon Cooper told NBC’s Pierre McGuire during the telecast that he didn’t think Hedman’s knock was a serious one. Time will tell on that, however.

Speaking of McGuire… he came within inches of getting drilled by an errant puck during the game. What an incredible angle.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

WATCH LIVE: Bruins visit Sharks on NBCSN

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Monday’s matchup between the Boston Bruins and San Jose Sharks. Coverage begins at 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The battle of two of the NHL’s hottest clubs will take center stage in California on Monday night.

The Boston Bruins, winners of five straight (and points in 10 straight at 7-0-3) will look to make it a season-high six against a San Jose Sharks team that’s won seven of their past eight contests (7-1-0).

A large part of the Bruins’ current run has been the play of Brad Marchand, who 13 points n his past seven games, including four goals in his past five. Marchand got off to a “slow” start with 24 points in his first 28 games of the 2018-19 season. In the 30 he’s played since he’s amassed 16 goals and 46 points to sit with 70 with a lot of hockey still to be played.

The impressive bit in Boston’s streak is they’ve been doing it without David Pastrnak, who’s out after having surgery on his left thumb. Even without his team-leading 31 goals, the Bruins have scored 13 times in their past three games.

Suppressing scoring is what the Sharks have done over their past six wins, allowing exactly two goals in each of those games. They’ve been buoyed by at least five goals in three of their past five games.

The Bruins will have to contend with defenseman Erik Karlsson, who return to the lineup Saturday after missing nine games with a groin injury. Karlsson has been on fire with 28 points in his past 19 games.

Up front, Joe Pavelski continues to scores with five goals in his past eight games and 31 on the season.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 10 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Boston Bruins at San Jose Sharks
Where: SAP Center
When: Monday, Feb. 18, 10 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Bruins-Sharks stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

BRUINS

Brad Marchand – Patrice BergeronDanton Heinen
Karson Kuhlman – David KrejciJake DeBrusk
Joakim Nordstrom – Trent Frederic – David Backe
Sean KuralyNoel AcciariChris Wagner

Zdeno CharaCharlie McAvoy
Torey KrugBrandon Carlo
Matt GrzelcykKevan Miller

Starting goalie: Tuukka Rask

SHARKS

Timo MeierLogan Couture – Joe Pavelski
Evander KaneTomas HertlJoonas Donskoi
Marcus SorensenJoe ThorntonKevin Labanc
Lukas RadilBarclay GoodrowMelker Karlsson

Radim SimekBrent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Erik Karlsson
Brenden DillonJustin Braun

Starting goalie: Martin Jones

Randy Hahn (play-by-play) and Bret Hedican (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from SAP Center in San Jose, Calif.

WATCH LIVE: Lightning face off against Blue Jackets on NBCSN

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Monday’s matchup between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Columbus Blue Jackets. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Lightning have won five straight games and have done so in dominant fashion. They’ve scored five-plus goals in four of the five wins, and have posted back-to-back shutouts, last allowing a goal in their 6-3 win over the Calgary Flames on Feb. 12. Tampa is 7-0-2 in the month of February (last regulation loss – Jan. 30 – lost 4-2 at PIT).

With 92 points, the Lightning occupy first place in the NHL, and are 15 points ahead of the Flames and San Jose Sharks (77 points) for most in the league. They’ve been in first place in the NHL since Nov. 29 and are looking to capture the Presidents’ Trophy for the first time in franchise history. They are currently on pace to win 61 games this season, which would be one shy of the NHL record (set by the Detroit Red Wings in 1995-96 – 62 wins).

Columbus beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 on the road on Saturday, their fifth win in the last six games (5-1-0 record). This stretch of winning follows a five-game losing streak from Jan. 18 – Feb. 2 (all in regulation). Sergei Bobrovsky has led the way, starting all six games (5-1-0 record) with .924 SV% and 2.17 GAA.

Artemi Panarin, who leads Columbus with 67 points, scored tiwce goals in Saturday’s win against the Blackhawks. He now has four goals in the last four games and has recorded 22 pts (11G-11A) in his last 15 games.

While Panarin leads Columbus in points, it’s Cam Atkinson that leads the team with 32 goals, his second career season with 30-plus goals. He’s got 12 points (eight goals) in his last 13 games, including three goals in the last four games, and is averaging a point per game this season (32G-23A; 55 points in 55 games this season).

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Tampa Bay Lightning at Columbus Blue Jackets
Where: Nationwide Arena
When: Monday, Feb. 18, 6:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Lightning-Blue Jackets stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

LIGHTNING
Ondrej PalatSteven StamkosTyler Johnson
Yanni GourdeBrayden PointNikita Kucherov
Alex KillornAnthony CirelliJ.T. Miller
Adam ErneCedric PaquetteMathieu Joseph

Victor HedmanDan Girardi
Ryan McDonaghErik Cernak
Braydon CoburnMikhail Sergachev

Starting goalie: Andrei Vasilevskiy

BLUE JACKETS
Artemi Panarin – Pierre-Luc Dubois – Cam Atkinson
Nick FolignoBoone JennerJosh Anderson
Eric Robinson – Alexander WennbergOliver Bjorkstrand
Kole Sherwood – Riley NashLukas Sedlak

Ryan MurraySeth Jones
Zach WerenskiDavid Savard
Scott HarringtonMarkus Nutivaara

Starting goalie: Sergei Bobrovsky

John Forslund (play-by-play) and Pierre McGuire (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Coverage starts at 6:30 p.m. ET with NHL Live, hosted by Kathryn Tappen alongside Patrick Sharp and Anson Carter.