Fight involving Bruins’ Chara plays out exactly as one might expect

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Ever try to punch a giraffe in the face? Me neither, but New York Islanders forward Matt Martin has a story to tell.

Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara is a man few want to fight. He towers over everyone in the NHL and his reach is close enough to double that of his nearest opponent that the best you can often hope for is a good shadow boxing practice because the odds of connecting are so terribly low.

Martin got exactly that when he and Chara dropped the glove just four seconds into the second period off the opening faceoff.

The two exchanged rights before Chara threw a nasty, downward-directed bomb that caught Martin flush, knocking him to the ground. To Martin’s credit, he bounced back up and tried in vain to hit Chara. He had no such luck.

Chara ended the scrap by basically stiff-arming Martin to the ground followed by the congratulatory pat on the back from the 6-foot-9 man.

It’s respectable that Martin wanted to try and give his team a boost, although they were only down 1-0 at that point of the game. Ambitious, but respectable.

Chara, meanwhile, just turned 42 on Monday.


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

Islanders enjoying success in Nassau Coliseum return

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EAST MEADOW, N.Y. — This season has played out beyond the dreams of New York Islanders fans through 49 games. The team sits in first place seven months to the day that John Tavares announced he would be leaving to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and they’ve added their old home, Nassau Coliseum, to 21 dates on the schedule, which has resulted in plenty of nostalgia and wins.

As the Islanders prepare to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning Friday night on Long Island, they look to build off their 5-1-1 record at the renovated Coliseum, the place they left for Brooklyn’s Barclays Center after the 2014-15 season. 

The atmosphere that made the Coliseum a beloved place to play for the franchise from 1972-2005 didn’t miss a beat when they played their first game of the season there in December, a 3-2 come-from-behind win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“The Coliseum is a big part of the identity of this team,” said forward Matt Martin. “A lot of history there. You can feel it when you’re in there.”

As the Islanders await the ceremony where they’ll break ground on a new rink near Belmont race track which is expected to be ready for the 2021-22 season, they’ll play 14 of their final 17 home games this season at the Coliseum. Where will they play should the Stanley Cup Playoffs become a reality in the spring? That’s still up in the air, but no one is getting ahead of themselves yet.

“I’d like to get in it before I worry about that,” said general manager Lou Lamoriello. “That’s not on anybody’s mind right now. That’ll come at the appropriate time. The NHL will be involved in that.”

The switch to the Coliseum has made life for players much easier. Their practice facility is less than a mile away and with most of the players living on Long Island, their gameday commute is cut down dramatically, allowing them extra time with their families or an extended pre-game nap.

The atmosphere is the trait of the Coliseum that is known league-wide. With a capacity of 13,917, which is cut down from its original 16,297 before the renovation, the volume is noticeable, and according to Martin, who played the first six seasons of his NHL career in the building, it still exists.

“It feels similar. That building’s always been really loud,” he said. “I don’t think you really notice that there’s less seats. It’s got a little bit of a makeover on it. It always felt like the fans were right on top of you. That’s the great thing about old buildings. 

“Everything’s being built bigger and wide and deeper and more expensive and for multi-purpose. To me, those old buildings, just that on-top-of-you feeling, you’ve got people right in your face all game and you hear the crowd and you feed off the crowd. It’s just a great environment for us to play.”

Barry Trotz knows all about the fans being on top of the opposition. The Islanders head coach was with the Washington Capitals when the two teams met in the first-round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Capitals would win the series in seven games, closing the door on the Coliseum the first time around.

He’s happy to be on the other side of things this time around.

“You have a great tradition there. The fans are on top of you,” he said. “Trust me, you can hear them. They can hit you with the odd beer or two as you’re going off, get in your face, all those things. It’s a quaint building in a sense that it’s not overly big. The new buildings everybody’s so far away. They don’t feel like they’re on top of you. Some of the smaller buildings, like Winnipeg’s building, is designed where they’re on top of you a little bit. 

“Trust me, you feel it. You feel the energy from the other team and we get energy off our crowd. It’s a fun place to play.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Matthew Tkachuk suspended one game for unsportsmanlike conduct

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Another day, another suspension for Matthew Tkachuk.

On Thursday afternoon, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced that they have suspended the Flames forward for a game because of an incident that occurred in last night’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

During a first-period scrum in front of the Flames bench, Tkachuk, who was on the bench, used his stick to spear Maple Leafs tough guy Matt Martin, who was on the ice at the time.

After the game, Leafs head coach Mike Babcock called the move “junior hockey stuff”.

If you missed the incident, you can watch it by clicking the video at the top of the page. 

What this means is that Tkachuk will be forced to miss tonight’s game against the Montreal Canadiens, which is a big deal considering his team will have to play their second game in two nights after losing to Toronto.

Here’s the full explanation of the suspension:

Report: Ballard, Leopold leaning towards retirement

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Veteran defensemen Keith Ballard and Jordan Leopold have likely played their final NHL game, according to Michael Russo of the Star Tribune.

A concussion limited Ballard to just 14 games last season. The 32-year-old was the recipient of a Matt Martin hit on Dec. 9, which sent him to hospital. Ballard, who recorded one assist and a minus-3 rating while averaging 12:03 in ice time, is still not 100 percent nearly nine months later.

“I’m just trying to get healthy,” Ballard said. “If I make a full recovery from this one, I’ll chalk it up to good luck. But I admit, if I’m hit like this again, I’m a little freaked out about what would happen the next time.”

Ballard’s two-year, $3 million contract expired in July and he remains an unrestricted free agent. The Minnesota native appeared in 604 career NHL games with the Arizona Coyotes, Florida Panthers, Vancouver Canucks and Wild.

Leopold, a fellow unrestricted free agent, doesn’t have his agent making calls to teams.

Leopold, who was dealt by the Blue Jackets to the Wild in March at the request of his daughter, appeared in 18 games with Minnesota last season registering one assist and a plus-1 rating while averaging 13:19 a night in ice time.

Russo reports that Leopold and his wife are in the process of opening an events and wedding center on the Bluffs of the Mississippi.

Neither player has formally announced their retirement.

Related: It’s Minnesota Wild day at PHT

Isles still irate with Wilson for Visnovsky hit

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Safe to say Tom Wilson is now the Islanders’ public enemy No. 1.

The day after wiping out d-man Lubomir Visnovsky with a fierce hit — which netted a two-minute charging minor — Wilson, who Kyle Okposo called “an idiot” during postgame media availability, was a hot topic of discussion again on Wednesday:

The hit happened midway Washington’s eventual 2-1 OT win. Here’s the video:

Visnovsky left the game following the blast and didn’t return, finishing with just 7:50 TOI. Isles head coach Jack Capuano, who originally suggested Wilson left his feet to deliver the blow, had no comment on the hit today and no status update for Visnovsky, who didn’t practice and isn’t expected to play Game 5 on Thursday.

It is worth noting that, prior to Tuesday’s game, Wilson alluded to upping the physicality:

“I know Latts is fired up to get in tonight, hopefully, and it’ll be good to get back together and give them some of their own medicine,” Wilson said, referring to the Islanders’ fourth line of Matt Martin [22 hits], Clutterbuck [17 hits] and Casey Cizikas [7 hits].

Per ESPN, Wilson won’t face any supplemental discipline for the hit.

Related: Caps’ Fehr to miss Games 4 and 5 after Okposo hit