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By now, you’ve almost certainly heard the war of words between the Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators, ignited by Eric Gryba’s open-ice check on Lars Eller in Game One of their first round series.

Brandon Prust likened the Ottawa head coach Paul MacLean to a walrus and Michel Therrien was not pleased either, pointing out a lack of respect shown in MacLean’s comments.

“(If I’m Eller), I’m really mad at player 61, whoever he is, because he passed me the puck in the middle of the rink when I wasn’t looking,” said MacLean. “That’s always been a dangerous place as far as I know. Ever since I’ve been playing this game, that’s a dangerous place to be — bad things happen.

“I think it’s a hockey play that ended up going badly for Lars Eller.”

Whether or not MacLean was unconcerned about Eller’s condition is up for debate, as he simply voiced his opinion on the sequence that left Montreal’s third-year center lying in a puddle of his own blood.

What is certain, however, is that MacLean was impudent towards Raphael Diaz and the number 61, as he did not even bother to learn the defenseman’s name. He addressed him as if he were a replicant that Harrison Ford should be hunting down in ‘Blade Runner’, rather than a hockey player.

Had MacLean known that Eller once wore No.61 on his jersey during a brief stint in St. Louis, he may have taken it further.

“I’m upset that player 61 sent a daring pass to that other individual who used to wear No.61.”

With that in mind, we creep inside the heads of some stand-out players who once bore this jersey number and uncover the thoughts that would surface in the event of being called out as Diaz was. (more…)

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Nobody is very fond of hearing about a condensed hockey season, unless of course they already lived through the agony of a cancelled year, which is what NHL fans were treated to in 2005.

After months of frustration that mounted from endless meetings that saw issues between the league and players’ association continually unresolved, the thought of  a 2013 season beginning in January was embraced.

And what a season it turned out to be. (more…)

February 21, 2003.

In front of 11,866 fans, which makes up 63.5% of HSBC Arena’s offered seating, the Buffalo Sabres are embarrassed by the Los Angeles Kings, losing 4-1.

Zigmund Palffy opens the scoring and puts the nail in the coffin with a third period shorthanded marker, the 11th such goal the Sabres have allowed already. As the center of recent trade suggestions, the Slovakian silences the discussions with his performance and gives the Kings further incentive to hold on to him.

But there is no quieting the anguish that exists for the Buffalo Sabres. Wins are scant, empty seats are visible in their home arena, Dominik Hasek’s withdrawal to Detroit remains a lingering problem, Martin Biron is overwhelmed by the increase in his goaltending workload and the allegations that team owner John Rigas committed fraud with his two sons casts a dark shadow over the club.

Bankruptcy declarations are uttered as a possibility while the National Hockey League controls the team. Everything is spiraling out of control in every way imaginable and the season cannot finish fast enough. (more…)

Certain players could not care less that yet another lock-out is plaguing the National Hockey League. Why is that? They already took the liberty of joining various leagues across Europe before the issue became inevitable and forthcoming.

There have been some incredible talents to come and abruptly go in the NHL, as money, playing time and a lack of consistency persuaded them to continue their careers elsewhere.

Tax-free terms on a contract, which the Kontinental Hockey League offers, are something most of us can only dream about. You can’t blame a guy for trying flying to those stipulations. (more…)

Zero.

As of this moment, that is how many suspensions Matt Cooke and Steve Downie have served together this season. No, it is not a typo and there should not be a one added to it. Suggesting, prior to the regular season, that neither player would be forcefully withdrawn from a game or involved in a serious incident from October to April would be classified as a pipe dream.

Lo and behold, it is now a reality. Cooke and Downie, both of whom got their Ontario Hockey League start-up with the Windsor Spitfires, toned down their physicality and adjusted their playing styles. In contrast to some of their previous on-ice choices, they couldn’t have timed this one any better. (more…)

Wrong guy, wrong place, wrong time.

This, or something along the lines of it, is the thought that races through the brain of anyone who Niklas Kronwall has caught with their head down. Unsuspecting of any danger, they look at the puck to collect it. Then, in a matter of seconds, No.55 lines them up and lays them out emphatically.

While the legendary Scott Stevens mainly put the hurt on forwards in the open ice, Kronwall’s heaviest and best-known hits have occurred close to the side boards. The puck will go around the net or there will be an outlet pass, which is when the target waits for the puck, glances downwards or both.

That first pass for the ongoing rush must be tape-to-tape, otherwise the player is destined for a thundering collision and a dizzy state that prevents them from regaining their feet immediately. If one did stand up and skate away unscathed, they should always consider themselves lucky. (more…)

For years, the Buffalo Sabres have built from within. One peek at their roster reveals a team that places extreme importance on drafting players and properly preparing them for the future. For better or for worse, it is a strategy that both the general manager Darcy Regier and head coach Lindy Ruff have stood by.

Strangely, and perhaps in desperation, Buffalo broke away from that tradition at this season’s trade deadline. Involved in two separate deals on the rather underwhelming day, their second one grabbed the headlines and was perceived to be the major transaction of them all. Before the deal in its entirety was shared, the two confirmed names that switched sides were Cody Hodgson of the Vancouver Canucks and Zack Kassian. (more…)