Making headway on rules

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:05 AM ET

BUFFALO -- The NHL is fighting back against headshots.

After the NHLPA rubber-stamped a change Thursday allowing league disciplinarian Colin Campbell to suspend players who deliver lateral, back-pressure or blindside hits to the head, the rule went into effect immediately and will apply for the rest of the season.

"We believe this is the right thing to do for the game and for the safety of our players," said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

Teams were sent a video to explain the rule. Minor penalties will not be assessed if such headshots are delivered, but that possibility will be discussed in the summer.

Ottawa centre Jason Spezza, a member of the NHL competition committee, said the change is a positive move.

"The reason the NHL couldn't suspend (Mike) Richards on David Booth and (Matt) Cooke on (Marc) Savard was because there's no rule. Well, now there's a rule," said Spezza, referring to headshots that sidelined both Booth and Savard with concussions this season. "There's room to suspend now. We can't put a new two-minute minor in with 10 games left in the season. Guys won't know what's a penalty and what's not a penalty.

"We needed something that would help us now and protect players now. This protects Colin Campbell as well so he cannot take the heat. This leaves it open for next year for discussion."

Kovie a no-go Friday

The Senators will be without RW Alex Kovalev for Friday night's game in Buffalo. He was on the ice for practice Thursday, but didn't make the trip to upstate New York. Kovalev has struggled since returning from the Olympic break, with no points and a minus-10 rating in the last 11 games. He is listed as day-to-day with a lower body injury. RW Ryan Shannon is expected to take his spot.

Ruff matchup for Buffalo

The Senators, who are coming into Buffalo with back-to-back wins under their belt, have won nine of their last 10 against the Sabres. Ottawa has beaten Buffalo eight times in a row, including four consecutive victories this season, and hasn't lost to the Sabres since Jan. 6, 2009. No wonder Sabres coach Lindy Ruff told Buffalo reporters the club needs to find a way to beat Ottawa. "You've got to guard against (the frustration)," said Ruff. "It's there. The only way to get rid of it is go out and win a game." D Steve Montador said the Sabres need a win over the Senators to remove their mental block against Ottawa. "We know we're a good team. We know they're a good team," said Montador. "If we play the way we know we can play ... the result will take care of itself. If we keep thinking that big, bad Ottawa is going to come and beat us, then that's our fault."

BRUCE.GARRIOCH@SUNMEDIA.CA


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