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Rossi: Saturday could be game-changer for NHL’s discipline game.

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Snow is falling, so this will be a short – by my recent standard, anyway – blog post. Some quick hits from Friday:

 

>> From what I’ve heard, there were quite a few lawyers in the Player Safety hearing for Boston’s Shawn Thornton. A ruling will be made public on Saturday.

Predictions are a fool’s game, but it is safe to report that Player Safety VP Brendan Shanahan has fumed over Thornton’s attack on Brooks Orpik since it happened, and that he does not view it as having any place in this sport.

However, Thornton does not have a track record, so there is no precedent to hit him with a lengthy suspension.

The guess here, based off conversations, is that Thornton will get a lengthy suspension, though.

It has always been easier for Shanahan – or his predecessors – to make come down hard on repeat offenders such as Matt Cooke or Raffi Torres.

Coming down hard on Thornton, who has no history and is reputable around the NHL for playing a respected hard style of hockey – that will be something this league has not seen.

It will be something perhaps challenged by the Players Association, criticized by some owners and general managers, and called out by a majority of players.

It will also be something to applaud by fans of hockey.

The NHL will take a step toward real change regarding safety – a change that Shanahan has told me (and others) he badly wants to see happen – when it changes the game of supplemental discipline.

Changing that game means deterring players from having a history by throwing the book at them when something like Thornton did is done.

Saturday could be a big day in the NHL.

Here’s hoping…

 

>> I implored Jeff Zatkoff to enjoy his Saturday night.

“Let’s see if I start,” Zatkoff said.

My eyes rolled.

Zatkoff laughed.

As the Friday night proved, Marc-Andre Fleury is probably the Penguins’ MVP as this season nears its halfway point.

Zatkoff, though, has been quite a story.

After a horrific first NHL game – a 6-3 loss at Florida on Oct. 11 – he has won four of five and allowed 10 goals while racking a .924 save percentage over that span.

He has earned this hometown start at Detroit on Saturday night.

 

>> About that MVP candidacy for Fleury… maybe it should be a league MVP? The GAME STORY offers some statistical – and anecdotal – support: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/pensgalleries/5243726-74/fleury-devils-penguins#axzz2nIuCOF12

 

>> The latest on Orpik and some thoughts from Ray Shero about James Neal in the NOTES: http://triblive.com/sports/penguins/5243728-74/orpik-penguins-player#axzz2nIuCOF12

 

>> Count me as a fan of the Stadium Series jerseys. They are not the new alternates, and if what I’m hearing is true, you will be all happy-happy-joy-joy when those are unveiled this summer.

 

>> A look back at columnist Dejan Kovacevic’s thoughts about Jaromir Jagr’s potential last game in Pittsburgh: http://triblive.com/sports/dejankovacevic/dejancolumns/5226035-74/jagr-game-lemieux#axzz2nIuCOF12

Jagr does not sound like he’s thinking about leaving the NHL, at least he didn’t sound that way on Friday.

The Penguins may have to sign him on the condition that he does retire.

(FAKE CONVERSATION)

Mario: Uh, Jags…

Jagr: I love you.

Mario: Two million. We retire your number. Just quit.

Jagr: My heart is in Pittsburgh.

Mario: Um, yeah, we need a signature, too.

 

>> A previous blog post about what my thoughts were with Orpik on Friday: http://blog.triblive.com/chipped-ice/2013/12/13/rossi-looking-back-on-covering-crosbys-concussion/#axzz2nJZ9mQyd

 

>> Be safe. Be warm. Save me some milk at the stores.

 

>> Josh Yohe has the club in Detroit on Saturday. Nothing big scheduled, eh?

 

Be EXCELLENT to each other,

Rossi

 

 

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Author: Rob Rossi

Rob Rossi is the lead sports columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has been called many names, but “Rossi” is the one to which he most often responds. He joined the Trib in November 2002 and was promoted to the columnist role in July 2014. Previously, he had covered the NHL’s Penguins (2006-14) and MLB’s Pirates (2006), while also working on beats associated with the NFL’s Steelers (2005-06) and the NCAA’s Pitt (2004-06). He has won national and local awards for his coverage of youth concussions and athletes’ charities. Also, he is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association executive committee and the Pittsburgh chapter chair. Raised in Crafton and Green Tree and a graduate of West Virginia University, he has covered a Super Bowl, All-Star Games in baseball and hockey, the NCAA basketball tournament and over 100 Stanley Cup playoff games, including the Cup Final twice. Oh, and his sports reporting has led him to brief chats with Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen; so that’s pretty cool. He is a regular contributor on TV with WPXI, Root Sports Pittsburgh and TSN. Also, he is the authorized biographer of Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.

 
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