Top Line: Bettman eyes ejection for NHL fights; salary cap hot topic; more links
An annotated guide to this morning's must-read hockey stories:
• The Hockey News teased its upcoming interview with Gary Bettman in which the NHL's Commissioner discussed the possibility of ejection for fighting and what the league is doing for retired players. As far as teases go, this one is pretty good.
• The salary cap, player safety, and updates on Sochi will be on the agenda of today's NHL Board of Governors meeting in Florida. Bettman is expected to ballpark what the cap will be next season in order to give general managers a chance to do some planning. Look for a number around $70 million.
• Is it still considered a "staged fight" if the two participants genuinely don't like one another? We might find out Tuesday night in Dallas.
• This could get awkward for Team Canada. Bruins coach Claude Julien had some harsh words for James Neal after the Pittsburgh winger said he didn't notice Brad Marchand lying defenseless on the ice before delivering a knee to the Boston pest's head on Saturday night. Not sure anyone's buying Neal's "I didn't see him!" excuse.
• Steve Buffery says the shameful behavior in Boston on Saturday had nothing to do with fighting. Hard to believe that point needs to be made, but clearly it does based on all the anti-fighting diatribes that sprang up in the aftermath of the Shawn Thornton/James Neal escapades.
• Any joy the Blackhawks felt after snapping a three-game losing skid last night against Florida was tempered by an injury to goaltender Corey Crawford. Coach Joel Quenneville doesn't seem too concerned, but the Hawks mirror the general mood around Columbus right after Jackets netminder Sergei Bobrovsky suffered a little tweak that's now on course to become a month-long stint on the IR. Rookie Antti Raanta is the go-to guy for Chicago if Crawford is out.
• On most nights this season, I've been left wondering why the Stars employ Valeri Nichushkin on their first line. Strong, fast and a great puck protector, sure ... but his stick has been the place where offensive chances go to die. And then he has a game like he had on Saturday and you realize why coach Lindy Ruff is force feeding him in prime time. Mike Heika takes a look at what makes Nichushkin so special.
• While Nichushkin is flashing signs of the value of popping a young player into the microwave of NHL play, these two Red Wings are demonstrating that slow roasting can be very effective, too.
• Jarome Iginla is planning a get-together with his fantasy football buddies ahead of tomorrow night's return to Calgary.
• I'm not sure that the greatness of Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson is that big a secret anymore, but it's kind of like the whole "Loui Eriksson is underrated" thing of a few years back. It's the story until something happens to change the story. In OEL's case, that probably means winning the Norris Trophy ... which he very well could this season.
• The first rule of broadcasting a shutout? Don't talk about the shutout:
Yeah, this one's on Vancouver's scrambling defense and should have been stopped by Roberto Luongo, but c'mon Garrett!
• Talks are heating up between the Flyers and goaltender Steve Mason. Outside of Saturday's meltdown, it's easy to see why. It's been ages since Philly has had someone this steady between the pipes, so locking him up for the next three or four years should be Job No. 1 for GM Paul Holmgren.
• Nashville's CEO Jeff Cogen explains why no one should consider the NHL's southern expansion a failed bit. It's a good take from someone who has been on the front lines in a couple of these markets.
• Who knew that a stint on Battle of the Blades could turn into a showcase for a new career?
• Beware of spoilers: HBO's "24/7" will air a day late in Canada. But there's a perfectly good reason for that.