SHERRIFF SHANNY: Just about everyone in hockey operations, including discipline czar Brendan Shanahan, is attending the governors meetings, which could have some bearing on upcoming disciplinary hearings. After a busy first suspension-filled first month, things had quieted down until Saturday’s blow-up between the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins resulted in a pair of disciplinary hearings.
Shanahan will chat on the phone with the Penguins’ James Neal, who kneed the Bruins’ Brad Marchand in the head as Marchand lay on the ice. Meanwhile, the Bruins’ Scott Thornton was offered an in-person hearing for hurling the Penguins’ Brooks Oprik to the ice and then punching him when he was helpless. Under NHL disciplinary guidelines, Thornton is facing a suspension above six games and likely in the neighborhood of 10 for his actions, while Neal is apt to be banned for around three.
Thornton targeted Orpik after the Penguins’ defenceman took a run at Bruins’ forward Loui Eriksson on the opening shift of the game, getting his shoulder up on Eriksson and concussing him with the hit. It’s the second time this season Eriksson will miss time with a concussion; the first came back in October when the Buffalo Sabres’ John Scott caught him with a blindside hit. It hasn’t been a good start in Boston for Eriksson, the principal players acquired by the Bruins in the Tyler Seguin trade. Eriksson had been the most durable of NHLers with the Stars, missing only three games over a five-year span, but now is out indefinitely again.
Thornton issued a heartfelt mea culpa after the fact, which usually doesn’t sway Shanahan much in terms of the possible length of the suspension. As for coach Claude Julien, he would only state the obvious – that when these sorts of things occur, there is generally enough blame that can be shared by both teams.
THE OLYMPIC WATCH: Steve Yzerman, Team Canada’s executive director, came to California early to meet with the rest of his management team in advance of the board of governors’ meetings. There was always a sense that the Montreal Canadiens’ Carey Price was a slight favorite to win the starting nod, if his play this season was up to par, and Price has done his part to solidify his place in the pecking order. Counting Saturday’s victory over the Buffalo Sabres, Price has now won seven games in a row and has allowed two or fewer goals in 10 consecutive starts, a span which includes an 8-1-1 record and a .949 save percentage. Price’s strong play in goal and timely scoring from Max Pacioretty are two of the primary reasons the Canadiens have caught the Penguins for top spot in the Eastern Conference … Welcome news for the Detroit Red Wings: Centre Pavel Datsyuk is scheduled to return to the lineup Tuesday for the second of back-to-back games against the Florida Panthers. The Red Wings lost the first to Florida, which left them with just five home victories in their first 17 appearances at Joe Louis Arena, with six losses coming in regulation and six others in overtime. Datysuk has missed seven games with a concussion. With Henrik Zetterberg sidelined at least two weeks with a herniated disc in his back, the Red Wings need all the offence they can get. They’re still waiting for a meaningful contribution from the ex-Panther, Stephen Weiss, brought in as a free agent to provide offence and stuck with just four points in 25 games. The fit just looks awful right now … Anaheim went on the road and won two big games back-to-back against Central Division powers Chicago and St. Louis. Ryan Getzlaf continues to produce goals at a record pace and defenceman Francois Beauchemin, out for the past eight games with an upper body injury, is about a week away from returning … The Nashville Predators received an update on the status of goaltender Pekka Rinne Friday. He’s been out since the last week of October, recovering from an infection that set into his hip after surgery. Rinne is about two weeks away from ramping up his conditioning and if there are no further setbacks, it’s possible he’ll get back into the lineup sometime in early January … The Islanders play the Ducks Monday and with every successive loss – it’s eight in a row after a 3-0 blanking by the Kings Saturday – the pressure mounts on coach Jack Capuano. The Islanders have won just four of 19 since general manager Garth Snow sacrificed first- and second-round picks along with Matt Moulson to rent Thomas Vanek for the rest of the season. If Capuano doesn’t survive, the candidates to replace him reportedly include former Flyers’ coach Peter Laviolette (who previously coached the Islanders a decade ago) and former Leafs’ coach Paul Maurice, currently between gigs after coaching in Russia last season … The Islanders trip finishes off with a game against the Sharks, Evgeni Nabokov’s former team. Nabokov has never played his former since leaving at the end of the 2009-10 season, and won’t this time either. Even though he’s on the trip, he’s still recovering from a groin injury that’s kept him out for nearly a month now.