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Penguins’ Brassard ejected for elbowing Devils’ Vatanen

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(UPDATE: No hearing coming for Brassard.)

We have another questionable hit in the National Hockey League.

This one came at the hands… err… elbow of Pittsburgh Penguins forward Derick Brassard, who drilled New Jersey Devils defenseman Sami Vatanen from behind during the third period of their game on Monday.

Here’s the tape:

Brassard was given five minutes for elbowing and was bounced from the game, too.

The Devils scored twice on the ensuing power play but also gave up a shorty.

As far as the hit, there are arguments both ways here.

Brassard didn’t appear to hit Vatanen in the head (or at least it wasn’t the principal point of contact), rather the hit to the back of Vatanen ended up propelling his face into the glass, causing his blood to flow.

On the other hand, Vatanen’s numbers were showing and, well, hitting a guy like that with his numbers showing isn’t the best course of action. And the elbow was high, and it never looks good when the victim of one of these hits crumbles to the ice and is visibly injured.

Whether or not it gets a second look from the league won’t be known until Tuesday.

The Devils ended up winning the game 6-3.


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

Devils’ Vatanen with one of the saves of the year

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Do you remember when you were young and your coaches kept telling you never to give up on a play?

To keep playing until the whistle sounded?

Yeah, Sami Vatanen was listening.

There have been a lot of good saves in the NHL this year. Great ones, too. But most of them have come from goalies — the ones tasked with, and paid for, stopping the puck.

Vatanen’s job, as a defenseman, is to prevent shots. But every once and a while he, too, is called upon to keep the puck out of the net. And he did one hell of a job doing so on Friday night against the Ottawa Senators.

Just watch this sequence above. It’s incredible.

NEWARK, NJ – DECEMBER 21: Sami Vatanen #45 of the New Jersey Devils blocks a shot by Brady Tkachuk #7 of the Ottawa Senators during the second period at the Prudential Center on December 21, 2018 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Senators 5-2.(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

There’s Vatanen flailing across the crease to try and keep the puck from entering the net. And he does it so perfectly.

The result, too, is spectacular, with the Devils going in on a 2-on-1 and Hall scoring.

The moral of the story here is never give up. You never know what might happen.


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

Nikita Kucherov hit forces Sami Vatanen from game; worthy of suspension?

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Here we go again.

Another night in the Stanley Cup Playoffs produces another questionable hit that will certainly be debated.

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov crushed Sami Vatanen with a hit in the first period of Game 4 between the Lightning and New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night.

At game speed, the hit looked clean, with Kucherov making initial contact with Vatanen’s shoulder. But when slowed down, it sure looks like Kucherov’s shoulder made contact with the left side of Vatanen’s head.

The latter clutched his head before struggling to get back to his feet. He headed straight down the tunnel and did not return to the game.

Kucherov was not penalized on the play and finished the game with two goals, including the game-winner, and an assist as the Lightning took a 3-1 series lead with a 3-1 win.

The series shifts back to Tampa for Game 5 on Saturday.

Do you believe Kucherov deserves supplemental discipline for the hit? Or do you think the hit was clean?

Let it be known.


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

Adam Henrique shows Devils what they’re missing

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Talk about rubbing salt in the wound.

There’s certainly an argument to be made that the trade between the New Jersey Devils and the Anaheim Ducks made a lot of sense for both clubs back on Nov. 30.

New Jersey needed help on the backend and the Anaheim needed something to stop the bleeding stemming from a litany of injuries to the Ducks’ forwards.

But man, this can’t make the Devils feel very good about their dealings.

In this filthy video, one in which Henrique scores a highlight reel goal against his former club, it’s the lead up to the goal that’s particularly interesting.

Yes, that’s Henrique flipping the puck over Vatanen, proceeding to beat him in a footrace and then scoring on a nifty backhand shot for good measure.

And on the night he returned to New Jersey for the first time since the trade.

Ouch.

Naturally, the Ducks Twitter account couldn’t help themselves.

Henrique had a pretty cool moment earlier in the night as well.

UPDATE: The Devils got the last laugh, winning 5-3 and reclaiming the top spot in the Metropolitan Division.


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

Adam Henrique finding new life on West Coast

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Remember when Adam Henrique scored 30 goals one season?

He does. His fans do. And the Anaheim Ducks would love for that to be a memory of their own in the near future.

The good news Henrique, who was traded to the Ducks from the New Jersey Devils for Sami Vatanen 10 days ago — and all involved for that matter — is that he’s rekindled that penchant for putting pucks past goalies in his new threads.

Henrique scored for the third time in five games on Friday since joining the Ducks and now has six points in that span. That puts him one goal shy of the four he scored in the first 24 games of the season with the Devils. Prior to joining the Ducks, Henrique had one goal in his previous 15 games.

Evidently, the change of pace has helped.

(Perhaps Matt Duchene in Ottawa should take a few notes.)

Indeed, Henrique, 27, has found new life on a line with Corey Perry and Rickard Rakell. The battered Ducks envisioned some adding scoring when they slotted Henrique on the top line in Anaheim and he’s since delivered.

The move has had added benefits as well, including getting Perry going.

Perry has missed a playmaker like Ryan Getzlaf in the middle. Getzlaf has been limited to six games this season due to two separate injuries.

Perry has found some good chemistry with Henrique, managing to score twice in as many games last week, with Henrique playing a part in both tallies. Perry has also returned the favour, assisting on two of Henrique’s three markers.

It’s a good sign for the Ducks, who might be getting healthy soon to boot.

God knows they need it. Even with the offensive boost, the Ducks have still only managed two wins out of their past 10 games.


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