As the game clock wound down last night, this exchange of fisticuffs in front of the Hurricanes bench between Corey Perry and Brandon Sutter (with contributions from Joe Corvo and Bobby Ryan), captured everyone's attention. Photo by LTD.
This might be just a minor background story from these four straight wins the Carolina Hurricanes have put together, but Brandon Sutter's strength and character, both before and after the whistle, is something that has gotten some notice, especially in the context of his remarkable 2 PIM in the 09-10 season, and on top of a last name synonymous with grit and toughness in NHL lore. Less than two weeks ago, Sutter told Mike Maniscalco: "Maybe I'm just a little bit more of a savage this year" - a little bit. Add in three key goals in the last seven games, and some remarkably effective defensive play against the opponents' best offensive lines night in and night out, this coming of age story is one that goes way beyond the Movember mustache.
With Brandon's older cousin Brett Sutter in the Canes' system now, we see how the influence goes both ways in this story from the News & Observer Friday: Sutter cousins closer in Carolina - NewsObserver.com. Included in the story was this confirmation of the situation earlier this season:
"Brandon was significantly injured," Canes coach Paul Maurice said. "It's a credit to him that at such a young age he decided he was going to play with it....Young players kind of set their pain threshold early in their careers - what they're willing to play with and what they have to play with. He was hurting and he played through it and now he's feeling pretty strong."
Elsewhere, the following move comes as no surprise, but with Jay Harrison recovered enough to play, Rodney Reassigned to Charlotte - TTS Blog The Hurricanes have reassigned defenseman Bryan Rodney to the Charlotte Checkers. He joins the Checkers in Hershey where they face the Bears who have lost 3 in a row, while the Checkers are riding a 7-game road win streak. More details on the 5pm start here. Bad news: Bears are up 4-1 after 40 minutes.
More from around the league, including the mood in Tampa Bay, the NHLPA's new leader, injury updates, and other news from the hockey blogosphere, after the jump.
Scouting the Lightning
"I thought we played solid. Our penalty kill was great, our power play scored, our goaltender played great. I’d love to be mad at something because I want the players to want more and make sure that we don’t sit on what we do, but the reality is this was solid."
And in case Steven Stamkos needed a boost after cooling off a bit, first he got Vinny Lecavalier back on the roster this past week, and now this bonus from the club's marketing department: Gameday Events, Lightning vs Hurricanes (Monday, Dec 20) where the first 5,000 in Tampa Bay Lightning gear will receive a Steven Stamkos bobblehead.
News and insight from around the NHL
Don Fehr was voted in by the NHL Players Association and was officially named the group's new Executive Director, a role important to hockey fans in light of the expiration of the current CBA after the 2011-12 season. Here's one writer's thoughts: In Fehr, NHL players have their man - Yahoo! Sports Veteran negotiator hopes to bring leadership and stability to a union that has been lacking since lockout.
This was a great read on a hockey detail we've been focusing on this season in Raleigh: Winning the draw by any means necessary - The Globe and Mail: Joe Pavelski reckons that the increased attention to detail and nuance – the byproduct of parity – has revived the ancient arts of the faceoff. "I think it’s one of the old skills that’s coming back, especially among younger players," Pavelski says. "Everyone’s in there with more intensity now."
And confirming perceptions about the adjustments required by young players making the leap to professional hockey, Justin Bourne's latest at the Bourne Blog: When young players discover NHL is fast, angry place - Puck Daddy When you make the step up from playing against boys to battling men, you learn how much the little things like winning puck battles mattered to your stats in previous seasons. Suddenly, you find your opportunities to create cut in half. And when you do get them, the goalies are even bigger and faster.
Winter Classic less than two weeks away
The New Years Day outdoor game at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field game between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins is less than two weeks away, and the NHL's most highly anticipated media event of the year has so many stories, I can only share a few.
That's right. Let Coach Bruce "Bleepin' " Boudreau be.
This seven-game abyss the Washington Capitals have fallen into is hardly his fault.
No. There is a much bigger, wealthier target responsible for the current malaise in Ballston: HBO
If you haven't seen the first episode of the HBO special that premiered last Wednesday, here's a link to watch online, littered with bleeps in an effort to keep it PG-rated.
If you've been following the implosion on the Potomac, this is another behind-the-scenes glimpse into the debacle. Erskine Re-Signs, Hannan Re-Adjusts | Dump 'n Chase
"On every team I’ve ever played, most of the time when they’re coming at you, you’re moving back with them," says Scott Hannan. "The game has changed where you have to maintain a good gap where you’re coming up on the play when you have the puck, so if the puck does get turned over you’re as close to your guy as possible. That’s just good defense I think, doing that. But as far as when they have the puck, charging sometimes at a guy wasn’t something I was totally used to. It took some adjusting, but we’ll get there."
World Junior Championships - Keeping up with Team USA
Bookmark this site USA Hockey – World Juniors if you want to keep an eye on USA Hockey's WJC preliminary games and roster choices. And this blog, the united states of hockey, offers some less official observations. The final cuts are expected by Friday. The first game is December 26th.
Chris Pronger has a broken foot and will be out 4 - 6 weeks, but Pronger is confident the Flyers will be OK without him - NHL.com
There is still uncertainty about when Jordan Staal will return from having surgery to repair his broken right hand. Jordan Staal's return to Pittsburgh Penguins still up in the air - ESPN
For the Capitals, it's hard to keep track of everything going wrong, but key defenseman Jeff Schultz has broken his thumb (nearly 2 weeks ago now), and will be out another 2 - 4 weeks.
Hockey news off this ice
I thought this was a remarkably touching and well-told TV news story about the Blackhawks' Jake Dowell, during the teams' recent trip to Denver to play the Colorado Avalanche. Blackhawks Help Grant Dying Boy His Final Wish | NBC Chicago Griffin Bohan was a young, vibrant boy until cancer ravaged his body.
An excellent proposal from the center of the hockey universe: NHL moms deserve to hit the road just like dads - The Globe and Mail Where, dare we ask, are the mothers? When does the moms' road trip take off?
Following up on the greatest hockey holiday video ever: Belfast Giants defenseman Mike Jacobson talks to ESPN's First Take about the team's Mariah Carey Christmas video - ESPN
Trying to finish on a less serious note, there are many morsels to savor here in this from Down Goes Brown: Great moments in shootout history. For instance:
January 1, 2008 - After giving up the game-winning shootout goal to Sidney Crosby to end the first ever outdoor Winter Classic, the Sabres' Ryan Miller comforts himself by telling reports "Oh well, at least I know that's the worst game-ending five hole goal I'll ever give up to that guy on national television".