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Puck Daddy - NHL

Last night's 6-3 San Jose Sharks' victory over the Dallas Stars was exactly what you'd expect from a divisional game with such playoff implications. Which is to say it was brutal.

One combination that featured infamy for both sides: Jamie Langenbrunner's(notes) hit from behind on Niclas Wallin(notes) that sent him head-first into the boards, followed later by Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray's(notes) hit to the head of Loui Eriksson(notes) that knocked the key Dallas player out of the game. (The Langenbrunner hit is near the start; the Murray is about at the 1:45 mark.)

From David Pollak of Working The Corners, how the Sharks saw the plays:

I did talk to Douglas Murray about the hit.  Here's what he had to say: "It was a 50-50 puck. He pokes it by me and he's getting a breakaway on me. As far as I remember the situation, I'm playing the puck and the body at the same time.  You never try to hurt a guy. It's unfortunate."

As far as the hit on Niclas Wallin, Todd McLellan said the defenseman went head-first into the boards after being hit by Jamie Langenbrunner on another play that wasn't called a penalty. McLellan said Wallin would be evaluated at home Wednesday, but nobody pressed on the nature of the hit and he didn't offer his unsolicited assessment.

Steve Ott(notes) of the Dallas Stars disagreed mightily with Murray's assessment, and added a few gripes of his own about a Dany Heatley(notes) elbow that he claimed still had him rattled after the game.

Or as he called it, "Dany Heatley's little cheap shot."

From the Stars, here's Ott. His headshot rant begins at 1:05:

A video or other embedded content has been hidden. Click here to view it.

What Ott said:

"I think Colin Campbell's got his hands full, that's for sure. I think the Loui Eriksson hit is prototypical. He's reaching for the hit. The big guy knows what he's doing. He's bearing down and finishing the check. He did it again on an offensive play against Vincour, elbowed him right in the face. My head's killin' me from this light right now from Dany Heatley's little cheap shot.

"If this doesn't get looked at, I don't know. I guess when you're used to being on the other end and being suspended in the past, I think it's pretty evident where this stuff should go in a hurry. I don't care if Heatley makes $10 million or Murray makes less, it's time to get this out of the game as fast as we can. Protect the guys. We're going to have guys that are going to be icing heads now. You only have one brain, so let's honestly start figuring something out."

Of course, Ott also had his say on the ice, going after Murray and earning an instigator in the process:

There's no YouTube (or NHL.com footage, 'natch) of the Murray hit on Tomas Vincour(notes) or the Heatley hit on Ott, but TSN has both of them in their highlight package.

The Murray hit is around 40 seconds in and the Heatley hit is at 1 minute. Click here or the image below to watch.

From Defending Big D on Ott's speech:

On this issue, Ott's certainly got a point. And given that the NHL has always been a reactive league to issues like the headshot issue, I'd suggest that anyone who shares Ott's sentiment but hates the player, ditch whatever biases you have against him. At least on this issue.  Because he's right.

San Jose Sharks blog Fear The Fin called Murray's hit on Eriksson a clean one, and despite the result of the play we're in agreement: Eriksson reaches for the puck, as does Murray; then Murray -- a tall cup o'joe at 6-foot-3 -- finishes his check as the two players collide. In other words, his first aim here is to swipe at the puck, which makes it a hard case to prove that he was headhunting.

His hit on Vincour, on the other hand, was just a classic shot to the head of an opponent by Murray, who tucked his arm in for impact on the play. If the GMs are serious about tightening the rules rather than adding one banning head shots, then they have to target crap like this.

The Langenbrunner play was a blown call on an obvious boarding. As for Heatley on Ott, it's hard to judge from a distant video, but it would appear Heatley raised his elbow to clock him, even if the impact wasn't catastrophic.

Will Colin Campbell take a look at all of this? Probably.

Is all of this symbolic of the migraine-causing pressure of the Western Conference playoff race? Absolutely.

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