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THN.com Blog: Risky maneuver

Third time’s a harm
For the third time in the young 2007-08 season, a Philadelphia Flyers player has been suspended for a questionable hit. Unlike Steve Downie (25 games) and Jesse Boulerice (20 games), though, defenseman Randy Jones received just two games for his hit from behind on Bruins center Patrice Bergeron.

The hit, which broke Bergeron’s nose and also resulted in a concussion, was ugly and scary and the aftermath could’ve been a lot worse. But the intent to injure wasn’t there, and there’s also a sentiment that Bergeron turned his back and put himself into a vulnerable position.

No one is blaming the victim, but you see a maneuver like that quite frequently now – players taking a quick peek and then turning their back to the play along the boards and taking the hit.

It might earn a few boarding penalties and subsequent power plays, but it also runs the risk of a long-term injury, or worse.

Go home, roadkill
Anaheim (22-14-5), Nashville (23-15-3) and the Rangers (21-15-5) were three of the NHL’s best teams on the road last season, combining for an impressive .590 winning percentage away from their respective home rinks.

That hasn’t been the case in the early going this season. The Ducks, Predators and Rangers are a combined 0-13-2 on the road this season, for a laughably low .067 “winning” percentage.

Winning recipe
It didn’t take long for the Detroit Red Wings, at 9-2-1, to climb to the top of the NHL standings.

The Wings, winners of the Presidents’ Trophy last season, are averaging the most shots per game (34.2) while giving up the fewest (22.5).

That’s good news, especially considering Dominik Hasek went down with a groin injury last week, leaving the crease to Chris Osgood and Jimmy Howard.

Shooting Star
Dallas winger Niklas Hagman, who entered the season with six game-winning goals in 399 NHL games, leads the league this season with three winners in 10 games.

Hagman has six goals altogether, including two shorthanded and two on the power play.

His career-highs are 17 goals and 29 points, which he set in 82 games last season. After years as a checker, Hagman, 27, has been playing on one of the top two lines this season.

Time is on his side
Tampa Bay center Brad Richards, coming off the least impressive season of his impressive career, is by far the busiest NHL forward this season. Richards is averaging 24:47 in ice time per game. That’s about a minute per game more than the next-busiest forward, teammate Martin St-Louis (23:51). Vincent Lecavalier is sixth among NHL forwards, at 22:32.

Hurricane force
Four of the NHL’s top seven scorers on the road are Carolina Hurricanes players.

Justin Williams and Rod Brind’Amour are tied for second with 11 points each in seven road games, while Matt Cullen and Cory Stillman have nine points.

Of course, it helps that the Canes already have scored sevn or more goals – twice – in an away game, dumping the Leafs 7-1 in Toronto and pounding the Islanders 8-3 on Long Island.

Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg, the league’s leading scorer with 21 points and riding a season-long 12-game point streak, leads all NHLers with 12 points in six road games. 

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