January 25, 2011
Gudbranson responds to suspension
By MACKENZIE LIDDELL, Sports Network
TORONTO -- Following a supposed confrontation with the coaching staff during practice last week, Kingston blueliner Erik Gudbranson was suspended for Friday's Ontario Hockey League game against Guelph and stripped of his alternate captaincy.
The details of the incident are hazy to say the least, as it was written off as an internal matter and the subsequent suspension was for disciplinary reasons.
There were reports floating that made Gudbranson out to be an insubordinate, apathetic player who was upset at the direction of the team and critical of the coaches, and that resulted in a vocal confrontation.
While the "reports" are unsubstantiated, it paints an interesting picture when the face of the franchise is clashing with management and team officials, whether he is in the wrong, right or if both parties are to blame (likely the case).
Regardless of what spurred such actions by Kingston's front office, Gudbranson's importance to this team, which is in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, is indisputable.
The Frontenacs are 18-8-3 with the 19-year-old in the lineup compared to 4-10-2 without him on the ice.
This was put into context over the weekend, as Kingston allowed eight goals against Guelph in a losing effort Friday before dropping an overtime affair to Oshawa the next night with Gudbranson back in the lineup and then victimizing Saginaw, 7-3, Sunday.
The suspension and removal of his "A" must have sparked a fire in the Florida Panthers' prospect because he delivered a Randy Savage-like elbow and beat down on Oshawa centre J.P. Labardo.
Gudbranson was assessed a five-minute charging major and game misconduct, but was back in the lineup Sunday, registering two assists in a winning effort.
OHL SHINES AT TOP PROSPECTS GAME
In what has been a competitive and energy-filled affair in the past looked more like an NHL All-Star Game - in the box score, at least - as Team Orr dismantled Team Cherry, 7-1, in last week's Canadian Hockey League Top Prospects Game.
Although Red Deer Rebels forward Ryan Nugent Hopkins of the Western Hockey League was named the player of the game for the winning side, OHL players made their presence felt.
Sault Ste. Marie centre Daniel Catenacci got the party started with a beautiful solo effort and got support from OHL comrades Vincent Trocheck of Saginaw and Niagara's Dougie Hamilton.
Ottawa's Shane Prince was the lone goal scorer for Team Cherry and Kitchener defenceman Ryan Murphy was named the player of the game for his squad.
ALL HAIL NAIL
Sarnia's Nail Yakupov exploded onto the OHL scene this season and hasn't let up.
With five points in two games this past week, the 17-year-old Russian has 33 goals and 66 points on the season, and is 12 points up on the next-best rookie.
Yakupov is on pace for 102 points, which would make him the highest-scoring rookie since Pat Kane and Sam Gagner torched the league for 145 and 118 points, respectively, in 2006-07.
With all due respect to Gabriel Landeskog and his fellow 2011 draft classmen, the hype meter will be through the roof next year when Yakupov will be the heavy favourite to go first overall in the NHL draft.
Three goals, an assist and a glass-shattering hit in Saturday's game against Erie ... that about sums up what Yakupov brings to the rink every night.
The recently mediocre Owen Sound Attack could be headed for another downward trend. Leading scorer Joey Hishon left Saturday's game against the Greyhounds after being hit awkwardly into the boards.
It's unclear how severe the injury is or how long Hishon will be out (he didn't dress Sunday), but the Attack will face a familiar task having been without the services of their leading scorer for a six-game stretch at the start of the season. If there is any silver lining, the Attack went 6-0-0 during that span.
Mississauga Majors goalie J.P. Anderson got his first taste of the big leagues on Saturday, as he was an emergency recall by the San Jose Sharks, who signed the undrafted netminder in the summer.
Anderson didn't see game action, but was dressed and on the bench for the Sharks' 4-3 win over Minnesota. Back home, his Majors lost in his absence Friday night to Niagara, but got back in the win column upon his return on Sunday.