Senator escapes punishment

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:19 AM ET

The NHL has decided not to throw the book at Chris Neil.

Sources say league VP Colin Campbell reviewed the hit the Senators winger put on Bruins centre Jeremy Reich during the first period of Ottawa's 4-0 loss on Saturday in Boston and decided no punishment was necessary.

Reich left the game with a head injury and missed last night's game against the Sabres in Buffalo.

After Saturday's game, Boston coach Claude Julien told reporters he felt Neil's hit was "questionable."

A league source said Neil's hit was reviewed "extensively," and while it was close to the criteria that Campbell uses to mete out suspensions, he decided the hit wasn't illegal or late.

Still battling for a playoff spot, the Senators couldn't afford to lose Neil for even one game, but the belief is Campbell looked at the hit closely because of the way it mirrored the hit Neil laid out former Sabres centre Chris Drury with last season.

While people point at Neil's history because of what happened with Drury, Neil has never been suspended in his seven-year NHL career. Campbell reviewed the Drury incident on Feb. 22, 2007 against the Sabres and deemed that the open-ice hit was clean.

Saturday's incident took place at 11:50 of the first period. Reich was crossing the blue line when Neil appeared to get his elbow up on the hit. Neil was called for interference and later fought Boston's Shawn Thornton.

It's possible Neil could still get a phone call from Campbell with a warning to be careful. Neil said yesterday he hadn't heard anything about a review -- which was first brought up during the second intermission on Hockey Night in Canada -- and would have been surprised if he was suspended.

"Big time (surprised)," said Neil. "I just kind of caught the guy with his head down."

Neil noted he cleared up the issue with the Bruins by fighting Thornton midway through the second period.

"It wasn't so much to set the tone as retribution for the hit on (Reich)," Thornton said following the game. "They were playing hard; we were, too. I didn't see the hit on (Reich) because I was on the ice forechecking. I had no idea what happened, but I thought I should address it."

STILLMAN HURTING

The Senators are hoping to have winger Cory Stillman, who missed Saturday's game with a leg injury, back in the lineup tomorrow against the Habs, but that would appear doubtful.

Stillman will try to skate today during practice at Scotiabank Place, but coach and GM Bryan Murray doubts Stillman will play tomorrow.

"I think it's optimistic (that he'll play), but I'll have to wait and see," said Murray.


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