Depending on who you talked to Thursday night, Senators winger Chris Neil is either:
a) A good, hard-nosed player who hits with the best of them.
b) An axe murderer.
Tampa forward Steve Downie was definitely in the b) camp.
It all started when Neil knocked Lightning rookie defenceman Victor Hedman out of the game with a fierce hit behind the Tampa net with about six minutes to go in the second period.
Downie raced in to fight Neil and got an instigator and misconduct for his trouble.
“He’s not the cleanest player,” said Downie (who admitted he didn’t see the hit), “and he’s always preaching about dirtiness every time we play them, calling players gutless. Then he does something like that. He’s got to look in the mirror.”
“I’m not even going to take that on,” said Neil. “Every time we drop the gloves, he says ‘I don’t want to fight.’ At least he showed up (Thursday night).”
Of the hit, Neil said: “I was coming in to take the boards away and had some good jump. He bobbled the puck at the last second and I don’t think he saw me coming at all. It was a shoulder right in his chest. He’s eight feet tall, so it’s not like you could hit him in the head.”
Neil was not penalized for the hit.
It was a hard, tough check, but not one that should get extra attention from the league.
Hear and there
Tampa’s Zenon Konopka is a bolt of electricity in the Tampa dressing room. The former 67 barged in after the morning skate to find a media scrum around captain Vincent Lecavalier, who occupies the stall next to Konopka’s. “Thanks for keeping them busy until I got here,” he said to Lecavalier. Konopka, like many hockey people, said he thought OHL commissioner Dave Branch’s suspension of Erie Otter Michael Liambas for the rest of the season for his hit on Kitchener Ranger Ben Fanelli was too severe. “He was just doing what his coach told him to do, finish his check,” said Konopka. “We all feel horrible the kid got hurt. Our prayers are with him. But if (Liambas) doesn’t get in there hard and bang on the boards, he doesn’t have a job. I’m throwing the same hit in the same position. If not, I’m in Norfolk (the Bolts’ AHL affiliate), right, Stammer?” he said to teammate Steven Stamkos. “Or maybe the East Coast (league)." ... Classy gesture by Senators owner Eugene Melnyk to host more than 2,200 members of our military and their families and good on the season ticket-holders who donated 900 tickets.
Stamkos, Tampa’s outstanding sophomore, has got a long way to go to earn a spot on the Canadian Olympic team, but the 19-year-old at least shouldered his way into the conversation. He took the lead among Canadian goal-scorers in the NHL with his 12th Thursday night. “I was a little disappointed when I didn’t get the invitation to the orientation camp, especially with the way things went at the world championships,” said Stamkos, who had seven goals and four assists in nine games for Team Canada at the world juniors last spring. “But it’s tough to argue who they picked, the positions are so deep. Age is a factor. I wasn’t on the radar, but maybe if I can continue the success I had in the second half of last year and the way things have started this year I can start to creep into the background. It’s not the foremost thing on my mind, but it would be great to make that team.”... Lecavalier has had a slow start as far as goals go - just two so far — and wonders how that might affect his Olympic aspirations. “It’s on my mind. I want to be a part of that team and that’s going to be judged on how I play for Tampa Bay. It’s very important to me. The good news is they’re not picking the team until Dec. 31. The last game went great and I’m going to try and build off that,” he said.
How do you play against the sizzling Tampa line of Stamkos-Martin St. Louis-Stephane Veilleux? You make them play defence like the Milan Michalek-Jason Spezza-Daniel Alfredsson line did in the first period, making them run around the Lightning zone. It ended with Stamkos taking a hooking penalty ... Interesting week for Senators prospect G Robin Lehner of the Soo Greyhounds: First a big scrap and now he’s been diagnosed with H1N1. “We expect and know for a fact that the Soo organization will take care of our player. We wish him speedy recovery,” said GM Bryan Murray.
Lemme say this about that
You’ve got to like the Lightning’s taste in dressing room music. Dire Straits’ Sultan of Swing was playing after the morning skate
So, there’s a point in the second when Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson was chasing a puck back towards the Ottawa zone during a Senators power play with a Bolt on his butt and I’m thinking “Jason Pominville,” and colleague Bruce Garrioch says it out loud. Wonder how many other people were thinking it?