Jordan Szwarz

Bortuzzo on suspension: ‘I’m not a malicious player’

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When the St. Louis Blues visit the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday night they will be getting veteran defenseman Robert Bortuzzo back in the lineup following his four-game suspension for repeatedly cross-checking Nashville’s Viktor Arvidsson in the back a little more than a week ago.

That incident has received plenty of attention not only because Bortuzzo is a repeat offender, but also because Arvidsson was injured as a result of the play and will remain out of the Nashville lineup for several more weeks.

Bortuzzo spoke on Monday ahead of his return to the lineup and said that while the cross-check was “maybe a little excessive,” his intent is never to injure an opponent. He was also asked if multiple offenses has caused him to develop the wrong kind of reputation around the league.

“I’m going to play the game hard,” Bortuzzo said, via The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford. “I feel like I do a good job of walking the line. I’m not going to go through all my instances. I’m sure it’s easy to dissect things for other people.

“The temperature of the game is high at times. Again, I’m not a malicious player. I’m not out here trying to injure people and I stand by that. It’s a game I have to play, on that edge, and I’m proud of the way. I play hard without being malicious.”

The problem for Bortuzzo here is that it is very easy for other people dissect things because he keeps giving other people things to dissect. He has an extensive track record of cross-checking incidents, including one on New York Islanders forward Brock Nelson that was virtually identical to the one that earned him his most recent suspension.

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews was asked about the Avridsson play on Monday ahead of their game, and on top of calling it a “horse [expletive] play,” he added this, via the Daily Herald:

“Nothing against guys that play hard,” Toews said. “That’s why I love playing this team (the Blues) because they play us hard all the time. But to me (the NHL is) doing everything to get rid of head shots and get rid of head injuries, but that to me seems like an intent to injure.

“Just because it’s not contact on a guy’s head doesn’t mean it’s not just as severe. So I thought it was pretty bad.”

On top of these two incidents there was a cross-check away from the play last year that injured Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin, a cross-check against Boston’s Jordan Szwarz that resulted in a fine, and that incident with Dallas’ Esa Lindell in last year’s playoffs where Bortuzzo became frustrated with his opponent flopping.  The bottom line here is this is now three times he has been disciplined for cross-checking incidents (two fines and a suspension) on top suspensions for two different kinds of infractions.

The tape does not lie, and he is very much a repeat offender which is going to put a pretty big target on his back in the eyes of the league. If he steps over the line again the next suspension could be significant. 

Related: Blackhawks will be shorthanded for game on Monday

Adam Gretz is a writer forPro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line atphtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Coyotes praise Duclair’s ‘outstanding’ playmaking skill

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Anthony Duclair’s making a solid impression on his new team.

Duclair, acquired by Arizona from the Rangers in the Keith Yandle trade, took part in the Coyotes’ prospect development camp this week and earned high praise from head coach Dave Tippett.

“Some of the plays he makes out there are outstanding,” Tippett said, per the Arizona Republic. “He’s a young player that he’ll still have to learn how to play without the puck, some coverage things, but his assets of skating and quickness and skill all are very high priority for us.”

Duclair, who turns 20 in August, figures to be on Arizona’s opening-night roster this season. He’s got NHL experience — seven points in 18 games with the Rangers last year — and is an integral part of the Coyotes’ youth movement.

What’s more, Duclair doesn’t have a ton of competition.

Though they made some moves at forward in free agency — bringing aboard (or, re-board) the likes of Antoine Vermette, Boyd Gordon, Steve Downie and Brad Richardson — the Coyotes are still pretty thin up front, especially on the wings. A left-handed shot that can play the right, Duclair’s in a battle with fellow youngsters Max Domi, Henrik Samuelsson, Jordan Szwarz, Lucas Lessio, Brendan Perlini and Christian Dvorak for minutes with the big club.

It’s a battle he’s ready to take on.

“They’re pushing younger, so what better scenario for me,” he said. “I’m pretty lucky to be here.”

Roundup: Kings, Oilers, Coyotes all re-sign depth players

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Not all signings can earn the attention of a full post. Here’s a few of those from today…

Oilers re-sign three players

The Edmonton Oilers helped keep some of their depth going by keeping three players in the fold with one-year deals. Forwards Andrew Miller, Curtis Hamilton, and Tyler Pitlick all were inked to new deals. All three players spent the season with the Oklahoma City Barons of the AHL last season. Pitlick and Hamilton were each second-round picks by the team in 2010. Miller was signed out of Yale following his senior season in 2013.

Kings re-sign Berube

Should the Los Angeles Kings run into any trouble with Jonathan Quick or Martin Jones next season, they’ll have J.F. Berube to fall back on. The 23-year-old goaltender re-upped with the Kings on a two-year contract. He’ll likely start the season in Manchester, but should Quick have trouble bouncing back from offseason wrist surgery, he could start as Jones’ backup if the Kings don’t sign a veteran to help. The Kings have just Dwight King left to re-sign amongst their restricted free agents.

Coyotes re-sign McMillan and Szwarz

Arizona helped keep their depth intact by re-signing forwards Brandon McMillan and Jordan Szwarz. McMillan has seen NHL time with the Coyotes and Anaheim Ducks in the past and had six points with the ‘Yotes last season. Szwarz had three goals and 19 penalty minutes in 26 games last season with the team and splitting time between the AHL and NHL.