Off The Draw: Stars' Antoine Roussel faces disciplinary hearing for sucker punch; tonight's games to watch, more NHL news, notes, highlights.
Stars forward Antoine Roussel had a hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety on Monday morning about his nasty cheap shot on the Sharks’ Justin Braun in the dying moments of San Jose’s 5–3 victory on Saturday. Roussel punched Braun in the face while the defenseman was being restrained by a linesman after a scrum, an act that veers pretty far from the boundaries of acceptable behavior. Roussel plays on the edge but has never run afoul of the DPS in the past, so it wasn’t a total surprise that the league fined him $5,376.34 (the maximum allowable under the CBA) instead of slapping him with a suspension. Now that Roussel is on the books he won’t get off as lightly next time (and you can bet that there will be a next time).
But as far as Roussel and Dallas are concerned, the benefits of his act outweigh the costs. He has been the Stars’ most effective player during their current seven-game losing streak precisely because he's been their most emotionally involved player. No matter how things are going, there’s no give-up in his game. Roussel is not content to go quietly. Going forward he may need to pick a more elegant way to express his commitment to winning, but for one game and one moment, a glove in the mush of an opponent was an appropriate way to send message to his teammates. And well worth the $5K fine.
What to watch tonight
Gotta hand it to Boston. The Bruins have already dressed 10 defensemen this season—and might need another after David Warsofsky joined the list of walking wounded—but they've somehow managed to roll up a 5-1-0 record since losing the leader of their blue-line corps, Zdeno Chara. It hasn't always been pretty, but the B's are sticking to their system (something they struggled with early in the season) and are getting scoring from the entire roster. Carl Soderberg in particular has found his stride, chipping in five points in his last four games. A continuing cap crunch means that Boston will be unlikely to re-sign the pending free agent this summer, so every point Soderberg scores is money in the bank. New Jersey has injury troubles of its own, but might get some key bodies back in the lineup soon. Both Mike Cammalleri and Martin Havlat returned to practice on Sunday. No word yet about whether they'll be available on Monday night. Cory Schneider is expected to be between the pipes. He'll be looking to reverse a trend that's seen him get pulled from his past two starts. A perennial 1B goaltender, Schneider is a true No. 1 for the first time in his career, and he seems to be struggling a bit with the heavier workload that comes with the job. It's clear that coach Pete DeBoer needs to work more rest into Schneider's schedule, but it's also clear that he has no faith in backups Scott Clemmensen and Keith Kinkaid. Something has to give here.
With 18 points already in the books, Calgary’s Mark Giordano just might be the best story of the young season. The veteran defenseman scored three goals and added six assists on the first four stops of the Flames’ current five-game road swing, including a shorthanded goal and a pair of helpers in a 6–4 win over the Panthers on Saturday. The outburst has him tied for fifth, and first among defensemen, in the scoring race, and he’s on the verge of tying Al MacInnis’s franchise record for consecutive games with multiple points. We all saw this coming, right? The 31-year-old Giordano has been a solid player for years, but he really came into his own last season after being named Calgary’s captain. What he's doing now, though, is truly remarkable. The Elias Sports Bureau says that he is one of just five blueliners in the last decade to score this many points in the first 16 games of a season. He’s now the early favorite in the Norris Trophy race.
Carolina is getting unexpected veteran production of its own, with goaltender Cam Ward riding his first four-game winning streak in almost five years. He has allowed two goals during the streak, stopping 101 of 107 shots for a .943 save percentage. The ’Canes are still struggling to find chemistry up front, but with Ward firmly reestablishing himself as the team's No. 1 over Anton Khudobin, they’re playing their best hockey of the young season.
What you missed over the weekend
• Derek Stepan made his way back into the Rangers’ lineup after missing 12 games with a broken leg, but he his return wasn’t enough to save New York’s lost weekend. The Blueshirts dropped a game in Toronto on Saturday, and then lost at home to the Oilers on Sunday.
• Steven Stamkos, who now has 10 goals in 15 games, powered the streaking Lightning (11-3-1) to their sixth straight victory.
• The Maple Leafs and the Senators made up their October 22 game, which had been postponed because of the shooting incident that day in Ottawa. Both teams skipped their morning skates to visit the National War Memorial to pay tribute to fallen soldiers, and later held a special pregame ceremony.
• Could the glow puck be returning to NHL broadcasts? It sounds likely.
• The Bruins lost another defenseman to injury, but could get another back on Monday. Still, it may be time for a trade.
The numbers game
• For the first time since Nov. 27, 1992, three Blackhawks defensemen scored goals in the same period. Trevor van Riemsdyk, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson each connected in the first period of a 5–2 win over the Sharks on Sunday.
• Though Toronto won its 100th regular season meeting with Ottawa, the Leafs still trail the all-time series, 47-42-11. They have, however, won 10 of their last 12 against the Sens.
• Corey Perry ranks as one of my favorite players in this league. Apparently that opinion is not universally shared.
• Wayne Gretzky playing for the Maple Leafs? Here's how it almost happened.
• Dieter Frenzel might have joined Gretzky as part of the Oilers’ dynasty if only Frenzel had known that Edmonton wanted him. A pretty incredible story here about a very different time.