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Campbell's Cuts: How stupid are we?

It's great to see that all is well in the world of hockey and everyone can now get back to some sense of normalcy in their lives now that Wade Belak has exacted revenge on behalf of the Toronto Maple Leafs on New Jersey Devils enforcer Cam Janssen.

Yes, Belak laid a beating on Janssen in what was described as an epic battle by the knuckle-dragging crowd. For them, it was one minute and 35 seconds of heaven.

Heck, if you hung in long enough to read the reports in the Toronto dailies the next day, you might have even learned that the Maple Leafs beat the Devils 2-1 to keep their playoff hopes alive.

But what was the most difficult to fathom was Maple Leafs coach Paul Maurice saying, “It really just developed on its own. I don't think there was any plan to it.”

I'm not kidding. He actually said that.

This fight was about as “spontaneous” as Hulk Hogan getting hit over the head with a folding chair. The media had been talking about it for days. Belak had been a healthy scratch in six of the eight previous games and played five shifts for a total of 2:37. Janssen, who has had time to go through the entire Harry Potter series sitting on the Devils bench this season, registered four shifts for a sweat-inducing 2:04 of ice time.

And there was no plan to it? Puh-lease. If these guys feel the need to send one bench-warming goon out to beat up another bench-warming goon, so be it. But please, don't take us for idiots.

GETTING BETTER: Things have actually improved in Columbus between hard-ass coach Ken Hitchcock and underachieving star Nikolai Zherdev since Hitchcock kicked Zherdev off the ice in practice last month.

According to reports, Zherdev has responded by improving his work ethic and is starting to get results, with two goals and six points with a plus-3 rating in his past four games.

But it hasn't been easy. After one practice a couple of weeks ago in which Hitchcock worked the Blue Jackets particularly hard, he skated to the door and told the arena operator not to open it until he gave his approval.

He did it knowing that Zherdev would bolt the ice as soon as the drills were over and players were left to work on individual skills. After a couple of minutes of standing by the door, Zherdev sheepishly joined his mates for more practice work.

SHARKS SHOW DEFENSIVE TEETH: The San Jose Sharks have tightened up quite nicely defensively and coach Ron Wilson attributes much of his team's success to acquiring Craig Rivet from the Montreal Canadiens at the trade deadline.

In fact, when the Sharks lost 4-3 in overtime to the Colorado Avalanche March 18, it marked the first time in eight games that they had allowed a goal in the first 40 minutes of a game. Working on a shutout after 40 minutes gives a team a huge advantage.

“We actually could have had seven shutouts in a row,” Wilson said. “A couple of times we gave up late goals when guys got a little lazy. But our defense has been very good since Rivet arrived.”

Going into their game Wednesday night against Chicago, the Sharks had points in each their previous eight games.

WHO KNEW?: From the obscure statistics department, Florida Panthers veteran Chris Gratton will play his 1,000th NHL game Thursday night and in doing so, he'll become the youngest player in league history to ever hit the plateau. Gratton, who turns 32 in July, has missed 106 games over the course of his career.

Ken Campbell's Cuts appears regularly only on The Hockey News.com. Want to get the inside edge from Ken himself? You can reach him at kcampbell@thehockeynews.com.

One of THN's senior writers, Ken Campbell gives you insight and opinion on the world of hockey like no one else. Subscribe to The Hockey News to get Ken's expertise delivered to you every issue.

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