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NHL, retired players reach $19M concussions settlement

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The National Hockey League announced a tentative $18.9 million settlement Monday with more than 300 retired players who sued the league and accused it of failing to protect them from head injuries or warning them of the risks involved with playing.

The lawsuit, consolidated in federal court in Minnesota, was by far the largest facing the league. The NHL, as it has for years, did not acknowledge any liability for the players’ claims in the proposed settlement and can terminate the deal if all 318 players or their estates don’t elect to participate.

The settlement is significantly less than the billion-dollar agreement reached between the NFL and its former players on the same issue of head injuries. Each player who opts in would receive $22,000 and could be eligible for up to $75,000 in medical treatment.

”The cash amount of $22,000, that’s small, but we were always looking for (medical) coverage to begin with,” said former player Reed Larson, who was among the first to sue the league over head injuries that could lead to the brain disease Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. ”The bottom line is this is monitoring, testing and hopefully help for players that will either have (CTE) now or could get it in the future.”

Players’ attorney Stuart Davidson said he knows there will be comparisons between the NHL and NFL settlements, even though they differ drastically.

”When you have a defendant who has spent millions of dollars litigating a case for four years to prove that nothing is wrong with getting your brain bashed in, you can only get so far,” Davidson told The Associated Press. ”I think it’s important for players who have an opportunity to settle their case with the NHL now to understand that before they get anything through a trial against the NHL it’s going to cost millions of dollars in experts to get there, and that’s going to have to be paid for before they see a penny from any recovery, assuming they win.”

An NHL spokesman said the league would not make any comment until after the opt-in period of 75 days for players. There were 146 players who added their names to the lawsuit as plaintiffs between November 2013 and this August and 172 more who joined as claimants.

In addition to the cash payment, the settlement includes neurological testing and assessment for players paid for by the league; up to $75,000 in medical treatment for players who test positive on two or more tests; and a ”Common Good Fund” for retired players in need, including those who did not participate in the litigation, worth $2.5 million.

Pittsburgh star Sidney Crosby, who has dealt with concussion problems throughout his career but is not involved in the lawsuit that includes only retired players, told reporters after practice the league, Players’ Association and others must all have a role in the issue.

”It’s something as players that we know that risk,” Crosby said. ”Obviously we know a lot more now than we did before, even a lot more than we did when I had my first one. It’s something you hope they can mutually agree on. It’s something that I think is important from both sides.”

Retired player Daniel Carcillo, one of the plaintiffs, urged players not to accept the settlement. In a series of tweets , he said players would be forced to see the same NHL and NHLPA doctors to determine if they’d be eligible for treatment.

Carcillo also asked for Wayne Gretzky’s thoughts: ”I want him to use his platform to help the men who protected him throughout his career. Lack of pressure from former players is a direct result of this insulting attempt at a settlement.”

Charles Zimmerman, who was a lead attorney for players, said he was most disappointed the lawsuit couldn’t assure future benefits for all retired players like in the NFL.

”I think it’s a very appropriate result and a good outcome in a very contested, hotly litigated matter,” Zimmerman said. ”The main goal in the case was to get medical testing and treatment for the players, something that the NHL wouldn’t agree to for the four years that we’d been litigating and that’s what we achieved.”

The settlement comes four months after a federal judge denied class-action status for the retired players, a significant victory for the league in the lawsuit filed in November 2013. U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson in July denied class-action status, citing ”widespread differences” in state laws about medical monitoring that would ”present significant case management difficulties.”

The bid for class-action status would have created one group of all living former NHL players and one group of all retired players diagnosed with a neurological disease, disorder or condition. Had Nelson certified the class action, more than 5,000 former players would have been able to join the case.

”It’s not surprising after the NHL prevailed on the class-action motion that there would have been movements in this direction,” NHLPA executive director Don Fehr told reporters in Toronto. ”I’m glad for the parties that it’s all over. Hopefully people can go on with their lives and now we can perhaps deal with these issues with the NHL without having to worry about the effect on the litigation.”

Davidson called Nelson’s decision a ”watershed moment” for the case and that players lost leverage as a result.

”It severely limited the damages to the NHL owners and benefits to the NHL players,” Vanderbilt University sports economic professor John Vrooman wrote in an email to the AP. ”This decision essentially forced the 140 (plus) players involved in the suit to settle and prevented the participation of all other potential litigants. So it will seem that both sides ‘won’ in what was really a lopsided victory for the owners. It’s just that all of the owners won by gaining current and future protection from damages and a minor fraction of the players won something that they would have zero chance in obtaining in isolation versus the league.”

Settlement talks ramped back up in July with an agreement reached Nov. 7.

Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly have, on multiple occasions, said the lawsuit had no merit.

”When it comes to focusing on concussions and trying to understand them and how to treat them, we’ve been leaders in the field,” Bettman told the AP in May. ”And that gets completely lost in the rhetoric of the litigation, and I don’t like discussing the litigation. There is a sense because it gets sensationalized that the reality of our position with player safety is somehow at odds with the reality of the science and the medicine and it’s not true. We study it very closely.”

The NFL settlement covers more than 20,000 retired players, and lawyers expect payouts to top $1.5 billion over 65 years. As of last month , the NFL concussion lawsuit claims panel has approved more than $500 million in awards and paid out $330 million.

AP Hockey Writer John Wawrow and Associated Press Writer Amy Forliti contributed to this report.

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

The Buzzer: Pastrnak dominates, Couturier breaks out, Senators rally

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Three Stars

1. David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins. The Boston Bruins’ top trio of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak dominated once again on Saturday night in a 5-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. That trio was on the ice for four of the Bruins’ five goals, with Pastrnak having a hand in all four of them, scoring three for his second hat trick of the season. The four-point night is already Pastrnak’s third of the season, more than any other player in the league. Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars and Mikko Rantanen of the Colorado Avalanche are the only other players with two.

2. Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers. After a breakout season offensively in 2017-18, Sean Couturier got off to a bit of a slow start for the Philadelphia Flyers. He has been starting to get back on track over the past couple of games and had a huge breakout performance on Saturday afternoon in a 4-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks where he recorded three points (two goals, an assist) and was a plus-four. He is now up to 11 points in 16 games this season, with eight of those points coming in the past six games. The Flyers are 5-0-1 in those games, having earned 11 out of a possible 12 points.

3. Matt Duchene, Ottawa Senators. Matt Duchene and the Ottawa Senators have been in the news quite a bit lately, but it is probably not the kind of attention they want. They should get some of that attention on Saturday night after rallying with four consecutive third period goals against one of the best teams in the league to pick up a 6-4 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Duchene had a huge night for Ottawa by recording three points, including a pair of assists in the third period. One of those assists set up Ryan Dzingel‘s game-winning goal.

The Hurricanes lost in the most Hurricanes way possible

Carolina is on a record-setting pace this season in terms of their ability to register shots on goal. This is not always leading to victories. Take Saturday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings as an example. Even though they recorded 52 shots on goal (and only allowed 32) they were still unable to come away with a win, losing in a shootout by a 4-3 margin after allowing a 3-1 third period lead to slip away. This game was already Carolina’s 10th game this season with at least 40 shots on goal. No other team in the NHL has more than five. During the entire 2017-18 season there were 14 teams that did not record 40 shots on goal in a game for the entire season. The Hurricanes have dominated the shot chart for several years now but keep getting the same mediocre results in the standings.

Highlights of the Night

The Pittsburgh Penguins entered Saturday’s game against Arizona riding a five-game losing streak and trying to avoid their first six-game losing streak in 12 years. They were able to accomplish that with a 4-0 win over the Coyotes. The first goal of the game belonged to captain Sidney Crosby as he scored on another absolutely ridiculous backhand shot. There might not be a better backhand shot anywhere in the league.

The Buffalo Sabres rallied for a 4-3 shootout win over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday afternoon, erasing what had been a 3-1 third period deficit. That makes this first period glove save by Carter Hutton to rob Bo Horvat of what looked like a sure goal that much more important. This is one of 36 saves Hutton made during the game.

Factoids

Remember when the Montreal Canadiens traded P.K. Subban for Shea Weber? Of course you do. Since that trade P.K. Subban has recorded 111 points with the Predators, including his assist on Saturday’s game-winning goal against the Dallas Stars. That point total is more than the number of games that Weber has played in for Montreal. Safe to say, that trade has worked out spectacularly for the Predators (stick-tap to @JJFromKansas for that statistic).

Mike Hoffman helped the Florida Panthers beat the New York Islanders on Saturday night, and in the process extended his current point streak to 11 games. That is the second-longest streak in Panthers history behind only Pavel Bure.

The Detroit Red Wings picked up another come-from-behind win.

The Calgary Flames were 1-0 winners over the Los Angeles Kings thanks in large part to a 22-save shutout from David Rittich, the first shutout of his career.

 

Scores

Buffalo Sabres 4, Vancouver Canucks 3 (SO)

Philadelphia Flyers 4, Chicago Blackhawks 0

Nashville Predators 5, Dallas Stars 4 (OT)

Boston Bruins 5, Toronto Maple Leafs 1

Florida Panthers 4, New York Islanders 2

Pittsburgh Penguins 4, Arizona Coyotes 0

Ottawa Senators 6, Tampa Bay Lightning 4

Montreal Canadiens 5, Vegas Golden Knights 4

New York Rangers 5, Columbus Blue Jackets 4 (SO)

Detroit Red Wings 4, Carolina Hurricanes 3 (SO)

Calgary Flames 1, Los Angeles Kings 0

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

No hearing for Malkin for hit to head in Pens’ loss at Caps

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Evgeni Malkin will not have a disciplinary hearing for his shoulder to the head of T.J. Oshie during the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 2-1 loss at the Washington Capitals.

Two people with direct knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press that Malkin would not face a hearing with the NHL department of player safety and therefore won’t be suspended. The people spoke on condition of anonymity Thursday because the league does not announce the lack of a hearing.

With Pittsburgh on the power play early in the third period, Malkin passed the puck and lifted his right shoulder into Oshie’s head and kept skating. The officials conferred before deciding to give Malkin a five-minute major penalty for an illegal check to the head and eject him from Wednesday night’s game.

Oshie, who returned and scored the game-winner with 1:14 left, was not mad at Malkin for what he perceived to be an accident.

”He maybe thought I was coming to hit him and so he threw the reverse shoulder out there, which I try to do that all the time,” Oshie said. ”I just wasn’t expecting it being on the PK.”

League officials agreed with Oshie’s assumption that Malkin was bracing for contact, not trying to deliver a vicious headshot. Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said after the game he was not concerned about the star Russian center facing further discipline, though Washington’s Todd Reirden left open the possibility.

”That’s definitely a blow to the head,” Reirden said. ”Those are things we’re trying to remove from the game. … We’re just really fortunate that it wasn’t something that was more serious and he was able to come back.”

Malkin, the Penguins’ leading scorer, will be eligible to play Saturday against the Arizona Coyotes. Pittsburgh has lost five in a row and has just one point during that stretch.

Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby stopped 41 of the 42 shots he faced for his first win since Oct. 22. He got some help from the post on almost a half-dozen occasions, but Holtby also turned in his best performance of the season.

”I felt comfortable as the game moved on,” Holtby said. ”I got some breaks, too, early on. The posts obviously was a break we weren’t getting in the past.”

Holtby kept the Capitals in the game, and Oshie provided the heroics. He left the game early in the first period after taking a stick to the face from Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta and needed two stitches to close a cut next to his left eye.

Oshie returned for the second period but had to leave again after the hit from Malkin. He returned for the second time with about five minutes remaining.

”My face is a little messed up, but I’m feeling pretty good now,” Oshie said. ”He caught me there, and it is what it is. I passed my concussion test, went out and won the game.”

Pittsburgh outshot Washington 42-22 and got 20 saves from Casey DeSmith in his first career start against the Capitals. He was powerless to stop Oshie’s goal after a pass from John Carlson gave him a wide-open net.

Late in a sloppy game full of turnovers and whiffs on the puck, Oshie just wanted to make sure he didn’t shoot so high he missed the net. After missing most of the first and third periods, Oshie made the most of his only shot in 13:51 of ice time.

”I barely saw him on the bench there,” center Nicklas Backstrom said. ”He came back right in time. That’s what big players do. They come back, they score the game-winner.”

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

The Buzzer: Holtby shines, Getzlaf plays hero for Ducks

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Three Stars

1. Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals. Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie provided the offense for the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night, but if not for Braden Holtby they would not have been able to get the win. Holtby was the best player on the ice in the Capitals’ 2-1 victory, stopping 41 of the 42 Pittsburgh Penguins shots he faced. It was by far Holtby’s best game of the season since his season-opening shutout. He has struggled a bit over the first month and entering play on Wednesday had allowed at least three goals in seven of his previous nine appearances. That includes 12 total goals in his previous three appearances. On Wednesday night he once again looked like the top-tier goalie that he is.

2. Colton Sissons, Nashville Predators. After scoring a goal and recording an assist in the Predators’ season-opener, Colton Sissons managed just one point (an assist) in the 13 games that followed entering play in Colorado on Wednesday night. All he did there was record a hat trick in the Predators’ 4-1 win over the Avalanche. Even though Sissons is not really known for offense (entering play on Wednesday he had scored just 23 goals in 204 career games) this is the second hat trick of his career. He set a career-high in goals a season ago with nine, and he is now up to four this season thanks to his performance on Wednesday.

3. Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks. Injuries have really limited Ryan Getzlaf the past two seasons, but when he has been on the ice he has shown that he can still be a difference-maker for the Ducks. He scored the game-winning goal for them on Wednesday night in a 3-2 win over the Calgary Flames and is now up to 11 points in 11 games this season. Since the start of the 2017-18 season that brings his point total to 72 in 66 games. That 1.09 point per game average is 14th among all NHL players (minimum 40 games played) during that stretch.

Highlights of the Night

Washington Capitals forward T.J. Oshie had a couple of scares on Wednesday night due to hits to the head, but he was able to return to the game both times and eventually scored the game-winning goal to lift his team to a 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have now lost five games in a row.

Factoids of the Night

Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin both scored goals for their teams on Wednesday night. This is the ninth time that has happened in their matchups.

Nashville Predators forward Colton Sissons seems to love playing against the Colorado Avalanche.

The Nashville Predators have been great on the road this season.

Scores

Washington Capitals 2, Pittsburgh Penguins 1

Nashville Predators 4, Colorado Avalanche 1

Anaheim Ducks 3, Calgary Flames 2

 

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Oshie’s revenge extends Penguins’ losing streak

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What a crazy night for Washington Capitals forward T.J. Oshie.

After leaving the game on two separate occasions due to hits to the head (a high-stick that produced a cut in the first period; a shoulder to the head from Evgeni Malkin in the third period resulting in an ejection), he was able to return with just enough time left to score the game-winning goal in the Capitals’ 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Alex Ovechkin, doing what he does best and blasting yet another one-timer from his office on the power play, scored the other goal for the Capitals.

Sidney Crosby scored the lone goal for the Penguins, who are now stuck riding a five-game losing streak.

[Related: Obviously unhappy GM rips Penguins’ slow start]

This latest loss for the Penguins came on the same day their general manager, Jim Rutherford, absolutely ripped the team for its early season inconsistencies. The thing that had to be especially frustrating for them on Wednesday is it was probably the best game they have played over the past two weeks. The biggest reason they did not get a better result was a touch of bad luck (at least three shots of the post), and what was a pretty great performance from Capitals goalie Braden Holtby.

At one point the Capitals went nearly 20 minutes without registering a shot on goal, while the Penguins continued to pepper Holtby with chances. In the end Holtby stopped 41 out of the 42 shots he faced.

With the win the Capitals are now just one point behind the New York Islanders for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division while the Penguins go from second place to — for now — out a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.