Suspend him or not: Jets star Dustin Byfuglien cross-checks Rangers’ J.T. Miller in back of the head

Adam Proteau
Dustin Byfuglien and Ondrej Pavelec (Lance Thomson/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Winnipeg Jets are in the midst of a brutally tough playoff race and need all hands on deck the rest of the way if they’re going to continue playing after mid-April. That’s why the decision of star defenseman Dustin Byfuglien to cross-check Rangers center J.T. Miller in the head Tuesday – while Miller was sitting on the ice with his back to him – is so dubious: in essence, Byfuglien is risking suspension on a nothing play, and considering how everyone knows the NHL is more sensitive about headshots, there’s no justification for it.

The play took place in Winnipeg’s MTS Centre, and it materialized after Miller was looking to jar the puck loose from Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec and took a couple whacks with his stick at him. He’s unsuccessful in his scoring attempt and Miller falls over into a seated position by himself, but at that point Byfuglien, who hadn’t been anywhere near him, keeps both hands on his stick and drills it into Miller’s head and the back of his neck, pushing his head toward the ice: Read more

Hawks star Jonathan Toews delivers big blow to hometown with last-minute goal against Jets

Adam Proteau
Jonathan Toews (Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

Blackhawks star center Jonathan Toews is one of Manitoba’s favorite sons. But his popularity in his home province will take a hit after his goal with half a minute remaining in regulation time Sunday gave Chicago a late 4-3 win over Winnipeg and dealt a significant blow to the Jets’ playoff hopes.

The 26-year-old Toews, who hails from Winnipeg, saw his team fall behind 3-1 to the Jets at MTS Centre after two periods. But the Hawks, who also need every point they can get to stay ahead of the Minnesota Wild for third place in the Central Division, got a goal from Patrick Sharp early in the third – and with 30.8 seconds left in the frame, Toews stepped up with a deflection past goalie Ondrej Pavelec to give the visitors the lead and the win: Read more

Why the Penguins should trade Sidney Crosby for the No. 1 pick

Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Before any Pittsburgh fans go and get their jerseys in a jumble, just pause for a second, take a deep breath and think about it: if the Penguins fail to get back to the Stanley Cup final for the sixth straight season, what else is left for the franchise to do but blow up the core?

After an off-season of upheaval in which Pittsburgh brought in a new coach, a new GM and a new supporting cast for Sidney Crosby, there would be few options left but to raze the roster to the ground and begin anew. Sure, the Penguins could use Marc-Andre Fleury as a scapegoat and try using the same roster again next season with a different goalie, but that would only be putting off the inevitable. (Just ask the San Jose Sharks, who are years behind on the rebuilding schedule after sticking with their core despite perennial playoff failures, including their first-round faceplant last year.)

The best thing for the Penguins to do would be to try to trade Crosby for the next Crosby.

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Wild-card primer: who makes it and who misses in the East and West?

Loui Eriksson (Andre Ringuette/Getty Images)

When the NHL changed the playoff format to include wild-card teams last season, it’s unlikely even they could have imagined a scenario in which the races for the final playoff berths in each conference would be this tight.

With less than 10 games remaining on the schedules of all playoff hopefuls, only six points separate teams in the Western Conference, while a three-team race separated by five points in the Eastern Conference could come down to the final night.

What’s on the horizon for each of the teams, and who stands the best shot at making it in? Read more

CHL playoffs: The most intriguing first-round matchups

Quebec's Anthony Duclair  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

The CHL playoffs begin tonight and it’s going to be a lot of fun. Connor McDavid has one last chance to win it all with the Erie Otters in the Ontario League, but the powerfully-built Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds have designs of their own. Out in the Western League, Kelowna and Brandon seem to be on a collision course for the final, while the Quebec League has the added wrinkle of sending two teams to the Memorial Cup – one being the host Quebec Remparts, who won’t want to crawl in through the back door.

Here’s a look at all the first-round matchups in the CHL, with a bit more info on one series per league that has me riveted from the get-go.

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Mark your calendars – the date has been set for the NHL’s most anticipated draft lottery in years

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly announces the Buffalo Sabres as holders of the second pick in the 2014 entry draft. (Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

For months now, hockey fans have slowly built their anticipation for one of the most highly-consequential NHL draft lotteries since the process was introduced in 1995. And now it appears the league has settled on a date people can circle on their calendars.

According to a Sportsnet.ca report, the league has decided to hold this year’s draft lottery Apr. 18, as part of a Hockey Night In Canada playoff broadcast. That leaves a little more than three weeks for fans of sad-sack teams to firm up viewing party plans and binge on lottery simulation websites – and when you look at some of the teams with a decent chance of drafting nascent superstars Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel (and the stakes involved if they fail to win the lottery), you’ve got near-perfect conditions to deliver what could very well be hockey’s most drama-packed off-ice night in history.

For one thing, the increasingly-improving chance the Maple Leafs have at McDavid is going to push TV ratings to record levels. Like them or not, the Leafs have millions of fans, and after their brutal free-fall through the NHL standings this season those fans are going to try every superstitious trick in the book in the hope it allows fortune to smile on their beloved Buds. If that does happen, the city of Toronto is going to instantly explode in the biggest hockey-related celebration since a Stanley Cup was won here in 1967.

And for as dramatic as that result would be for the Leafs franchise – it would almost certainly tempt team management to fast-track their rebuild – think of the ripple effect it would have on the rest of the league, and on Toronto rivals in particular: Read more

NCAA Frozen Four: Players to watch from every team in the tournament

Minnesota State goalie Stephon Williams (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

College hockey’s Frozen Four kicks off this week with 16 teams gunning for a spot in Boston, where the semifinal and final will be held in April. Regionals spread the squads across four cities and there is a lot of firepower at this year’s installment. But who are the players to watch for? Here’s a primer for every school, with an admitted bias towards NHL prospects.

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