PHT’s top 14 of ’14: The NHL gets the mumps

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Some of the initial reactions to the NHL’s mumps outbreak that has hit at least 17 players were surprise and confusion.

Isn’t that the disease that everyone gets vaccinated for when they’re young?

The one that’s been all but extinct since the late 1960s?

How is it that the NHL of all places, populated by some of the healthiest people on the planet with access to state of the art facilities and medical care, being victimized by this illness?

Over the past couple months, we’ve had our assumptions corrected while watching elite players Corey Perry and Sidney Crosby be sent to the sidelines. It’s not unfair to say that, at least in terms of the NHL, 2014 was the year of the mumps.

The illness has spread fast and furious with many fans now realizing that while the vaccine is effective, it doesn’t provide complete immunity. Players work in close quarters with each other and victims of the disease will be contagious before the telltale swelling of the salivary glands begin, so it’s easy to see why the NHL’s had such a tough time getting this disease under its thumb. The fact mumps can be spread before you know you have it is a problem that has elevated this beyond the status of an ordinary injury.

As Pens forward Beau Bennett realized, this outbreak has the potential to extend beyond the hockey world. Bennett visited a children’s hospital before he realized he had the mumps and that led to kids being put into isolation, per the National Post. In response to that, other teams — like the New York Islanders — postponed their scheduled holiday hospital visits, as Newsday reported.

All that being said, the mumps are still uncharted waters. While relatively isolated outbreaks aren’t an unheard of occurrence in recent years, this is the first time it’s plagued a professional sports league, according to ESPN. You can bet the NFL and NBA are keeping a close eye on the situation now that that glass ceiling has been shattered, so to speak.

While this disease has already sidelined more than a dozen players, led to several others being put into precautionary quarantine, and put the spotlight on a disease many assumed was no longer an issue, perhaps the biggest thing to keep in mind is that this might not just be a NHL story. This isn’t just something that has happened and can be reflected on — this is an ongoing, breaking news situation that has the potential to remain in the forefront for a while.

The CDC’s Dr. Greg Wallace, who leads their domestic measles, mumps, rubella and polio team, said that the NHL would need to go about 50 days without a new case before the outbreak can be seen as over. Given that new diagnoses are still being made, it’s hard to say when we’ll get to that point.

What we can say for certain is that the mumps have been an unfortunate, but huge part of the 2014-15 campaign.

Devils test Elias, Havlat for mumps

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More from the infamous mumps outbreak of ’14 — on Monday, the Devils confirmed that Martin Havlat and Patrik Elias are undergoing tests for the illness, which already infected teammates Travis Zajac and Adam Larsson.

Havlat played in Saturday’s 4-0 loss to Washington and was pretty ineffective in just over 14 minutes of ice time, finishing minus-1 with just one shot on goal. Elias played more (17:40) but finished minus-2 with no shots on goal (though he did miss the net three times).

Earlier today, the Penguins announced that three players — Thomas Greiss, Steve Downie and Brandon Sutter — had all been return to Pittsburgh to undergo testing for the mumps. The Penguins, who play in Florida tonight, have already seen captain Sidney Crosby, defenseman Olli Maatta and forward Beau Bennett get diagnosed with the mumps.

Pens send Downie, Sutter, Greiss home for mumps test (Updated)

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The mumps outbreak continued to wreak havoc on the Penguins today, as the club sent three players — Steve Downie, Brandon Sutter and Thomas Greiss — back to Pittsburgh to be tested for the illness.

Pittsburgh is scheduled to play Florida tonight in Sunrise.

The Penguins’ issues with the mumps are well-documented. Captain Sidney Crosby, defenseman Olli Maatta and forward Beau Bennett have been diagnosed with the virus while the likes of Marc-Andre Fleury and Roberto Bortuzzo have been cleared after negative test results.

(It’s interesting to note that Greiss is going for a second round of testing after getting a negative result on Friday. There’s also no word yet on who Pittsburgh will dress as Fleury’s backup tonight against the Panthers.)

UPDATE

So Jeff Zatkoff will back up Fleury tonight, and the Pens will likely dress Taylor Chorney on defense and either Rob Klinkhammer or Craig Adams at forward. All three were scratched on Saturday.

Pens, Panthers renew hostilities after Saturday’s feisty affair

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Things got ugly during Pittsburgh’s 3-1 win over Florida on the weekend at Consol — the two teams combined for 76 penalty minutes — and that’s set the stage for tonight’s rematch in Sunrise.

“They started off pretty hard and were firing pucks and finishing every hit,” Sidney Crosby said of Florida’s spirited effort, per the Herald. “Both teams got into it pretty early.”

The ugliest incident of the game came late in the first period, when Willie Mitchell lost the plot during a scrap with Pens defenseman Kris Letang and hit Letang with his own helmet:

Surprisingly, Mitchell wasn’t ejected from the contest and, perhaps even more surprisingly, has yet to be disciplined by the NHL (no suspension nor fine to date.)

The Mitchell-Letang fracas wasn’t the only feud played out on Saturday, though. Jussi Jokinen got into it with Evgeni Malkin, and Dave Bolland got a pretty healthy slash in on Sidney Crosby.

“We’re lucky we get to play them again on Monday,” defenseman Erik Gudbranson told the Herald. “We have to find a way to win.”

Video: Willie Mitchell wields Letang’s helmet as a weapon

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Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang and Florida Panthers defenseman Willie Mitchell sparred late in the first period of tonight’s game. As officials stepped in to try and break up the fight, Mitchell grabbed Letang’s helmet off the ice and attempted to hit the Penguins defenseman with it.

You can see that below:

That’s not the only incident in what’s turned into a heated game between these two squads. Sidney Crosby briefly left the contest after being slashed on the hand by Dave Bolland, per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Josh Yohe.

Steve Downie was fuming in the first period and got vocal with the Panthers’ bench. He later fought Erik Gudbranson, which earned Downie a 10-minute misconduct.

Pittsburgh had a 2-1 lead through 40 minutes with all three goals coming in the first 7:31 minutes of the contest. In the 32:29 minutes that followed, the teams accumulated a collective 68 penalty minutes.