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Bad News Blues: Bouwmeester’s season is done; Upshall to be re-evaluated in four weeks

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Jay Bouwmeester‘s injury-plagued season is officially over.

The St. Louis Blues announced Monday that the veteran defenseman would miss the rest of the season with a hip injury he picked up in a game on Saturday against the Dallas Stars. The Blues said that Bouwmeester will miss four-to-six months.

The veteran defenseman missed the first 21 games due to injury to start the season after sustaining a fractured ankle in training camp. He returned in late November and went on to play 35 games with the team, notching two goals and adding five assists.

Bouwmeester’s ailments this season had limited him to just one practice per week, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

It’s been a terrible season for the Blues as far as their infirmary goes. The aforementioned Bouwmeester began the season on the shelf, Robby Fabbri torn ACL rendered his season over before it began. Patrik Berglund missed nearly two months with a shoulder injury and Alex Steen missed six games after picking up a hand injury in preseason action. The team also lost Jaden Schwartz midseason with an ankle injury.

And then Saturday came.

The Blues, still fighting for a playoff spot despite trading away Paul Stastny at the trade deadline, lost both Boumeester and Scottie Upshall in their 3-2 overtime loss to the Stars.

Upshall, the Blues announced on Monday, is out for at least four weeks with an MCL sprain. He will be re-evaluated in a month.

The Blues sit two points behind the Los Angeles Kings for the final wildcard spot in the Western Conference. They play next on Thursday away against the San Jose Sharks.


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

Panthers cutting ties with Kopecky, Upshall

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Two members of Florida’s big 2011 free agent haul are on their way out of town.

Tomas Kopecky and Scottie Upshall — both primed to become UFAs on July 1 — won’t be offered contract extensions, Panthers GM Dale Tallon announced on Thursday.

Kopecky, 33, had a disappointing campaign in ’14-15, scoring just two goals in 64 games while routinely sitting as a healthy scratch. Upshall, 31, had slightly better production — eight goals and 15 points in 63 games — but, like Kopecky, also spent time as a healthy scratch under first-year head coach Gerard Gallant.

That Florida’s cutting ties with both isn’t surprising.

Signed in July ’11 to similar deals — Kopecky’s was a four-year pact for $12M, Upshall’s was $14M over four — the pair helped Florida make the playoffs in their first season, but struggled to be impact players over the following three (Upshall, it has to be said, was repeatedly plagued by injury.)

The duo will likely be replaced in-house. Florida has a number of young forwards looking to make the leap to the NHL next season, which includes the likes of Rocco Grimaldi, Logan Shaw, Connor Brickley and Quinton Howden.

Kerry Fraser: Orpik hit on Boyle was legal

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We all saw the hit Brooks Orpik put on Dan Boyle last night:

After the game, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault reportedly thought Boyle would be fine. But the 38-year-old didn’t look particularly fine trying to skate off the ice, and he didn’t return to the game.

Many observers felt Orpik deserved to be penalized for a hit to the head.

Ex-referee Kerry Fraser, however, deemed the hit legal.

Fraser’s full explanation is here at TSN.ca. But it boils down to Rule 48, which was reworded in 2013 to clarify that only “avoidable” contact to head would be punished.

According to Fraser, the contact to Boyle’s head was not illegal, because:

– Boyle placed himself in a vulnerable position.
– The Rangers player materially change his body and head position immediately prior to the hit delivered by Orpik.
– Orpik attempted to hit squarely through his opponent’s body and did not “pick” Boyle’s head.

The NHL has applied the reworded Rule 48 before. Remember when Radko Gudas was not suspended for a hit on Scottie Upshall?

Fraser, for the record, does not like the fact that Orpik’s hit was a legal one. In fact, he feels it’s “time to rethink the end game and re-draft” Rule 48 to outlaw hits that are “designed to inflict excessive punishment on a vulnerable player.”

Florida Panthers, deadline buyers?

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On Tuesday, Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon was on Sportsnet’s Fan 590 to discuss his surprising squad — just one point back of Boston for the final wild card spot in the East — and what the future might have in store.

It’s a future that could see the Panthers be deadline buyers for the first time in a while.

“We’re in a good position,” Tallon explained. “I don’t think we’re going to change much, regardless of where we’re at — we’re still keeping an eye on the future as well — but we’re in a good position where we can either add from within, or go out and get somebody.

“So it’s all good.”

After a mediocre start to the season — Florida was 7-6-6 following a 4-1 loss to Minnesota on Nov. 24 — the Panthers have caught fire, going 13-5-3 over their last 21 games which includes their current three-game winning streak. Roberto Luongo is playing at a Vezina level (17-7-7, 2.23 GAA, .927 save percentage) and the club is getting tremendous production from youngsters Nick Bjugstad and Aaron Ekblad, which has brought excitement back to Sunrise; the Panthers drew 15,000 or more fans in each of their four home games prior to the current road swing.

So, why not keep the enthusiasm going and push for just the second playoff appearance in 14 years?

The Panthers do have some flexibility in terms of financial maneuvering. There’s a slew of veterans that are pending UFAs — Tomas Fleischmann, Scottie Upshall, Tomas Kopecky and Sean Bergenheim — and a number of prospects on entry-level deals playing very well in AHL San Antonio (Rocco Grimaldi, Alex Petrovic and Quinton Howden, to name a few.)

Tallon alluded to these factors when discussing how he’ll approach the deadline.

“We’re always looking to get better,” he explained. “We have some good young players in San Antonio that we want to get to, and we have some good players that we have to sign this offseason.

“So we’re in a good position. We’re obviously in the hunt.”

Leafs lose Panik to upper-body injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs forward Richard Panik scored a goal against the Florida Panthers on Sunday, but he won’t be able to finish today’s game.

The 23-year-old suffered an upper-body injury, with TSN’s Jonas Siegel noting some concussion worries:

Florida’s Scottie Upshall delivered the hit that hurt Panik. Video of the check will be added to this post if it becomes available. (You can view it via this link.)

It’s that much more of a shame because Panik was getting a boost in the form of better linemates, something he commented upon today.

He provided the first tally in a six-goal second period between the two teams: