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Over the Boards: Suspensions, Soderberg, Dekeyser

Wednesday, 04.17.2013 / 9:00 AM / Over the Boards

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Over the Boards: Suspensions, Soderberg, Dekeyser
Under Brendan Shanahan, the Department of Player Safety is gearing up for the increased pressure of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. NHL.com senior writer Dan Rosen also speaks with Pascal Dupuis and Danny Dekeyser in our weekly notebook.

Brendan Shanahan isn't interested in statistics anymore, not even the ones that appear to work in his favor, such as those that show the number of suspensions, fines and warnings he has handed out this season being down considerably from last season.

Shanahan, the NHL's senior vice president of safety and hockey operations, has handed out 15 suspensions totaling 34 games, eight fines and 15 warnings through 631 games (totals through Monday) this season, according to numbers provided by the Department of Player Safety. He handed out 22 suspensions totaling 73 games, 17 fines and 49 warnings in the same amount of games last season. There were another 29 regular-season games missed because of eight suspensions handed down during the preseason.

"I'm glad [the numbers are down], but in my mind teams are getting ready for the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs and my team [at the Department of Player Safety] is getting ready for the playoffs," Shanahan told NHL.com.

Shanahan admits he is leery about what awaits because of what happened in the first round last season.

QUOTEBOOK



"I feel sorry for the Swedish Hockey Federation that tries to get a good team going for the home World Championships [in Stockholm], but his desire to go over and play for the Bruins is strong. When his club broke his contract he was free to go. He wants to play. He wants to try. I know that the level in the NHL is very high and the players are bigger, stronger and faster, but he has the intelligence, the speed and definitely the size to make it over there." -- Swedish Elite League analyst Niklas Wikegard discussing Boston Bruins forward Carl Soderberg

"Not that I don't think about them when I'm on the ice, but it's just so positive the energy I get from them at home and it carries onto the ice too. A lot of my success is because of the great stuff that is happening at home and how happy I am. It's all positive. I used to say a great wife and great kids is half the battle, but I have to say, it's probably 90 percent, especially having four kids." -- Pittsburgh Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis on how his family life helps him at the rink

After handing out two suspensions and two fines in the final two weeks of the 2011-12 regular season, Shanahan suspended nine players for a total of 41 games and issued one fine for $2,500 in the first round. Raffi Torres of the Phoenix Coyotes earned the majority of those games when he was suspended 25 games for a hit on Marian Hossa of the Chicago Blackhawks. Torres' suspension later was reduced to 21 games.

"This is not a time for us to be patting ourselves on the back," Shanahan said. "I experienced last year what I always knew as a player, that when the puck drops for the playoffs everything changes. So for me now, I'm happy the numbers are down, but we're preparing to be playoff ready when the puck drops and to be as vigilant as ever."

Shanahan said he understands there are those who say he hasn't been vigilant enough this season and that could be why suspensions, fines and warnings are down.

"There are people that might think we are too lenient," he said. "But I would suggest the people we have suspended think we're too harsh."

He went on to say he realizes the decisions he makes evoke passion, good and bad, but part of his job is to tune out the noise and focus on the task at hand.

"I understand that whatever decision you make is probably going to be too much or too few in someone else's opinion, but this is our department that we've been asked to run and we make our decisions based upon the standards that we've set throughout the year," Shanahan said.

"I focus on our job. I focus on player safety. I focus on recognizing hockey still is a physical game and that physical players have the right to be physical. This position will always carry with it skepticism and criticism, and all you can really do is carry out your duties with honesty and as effectively as you can."

That will remain Shanahan's goal until the Stanley Cup is awarded.

What type of player is Bruins' Soderberg?

Boston Bruins forward Carl Soderberg is due in Boston on Wednesday after deciding last week to leave Sweden to sign a contract with the Bruins. NHL.com spoke to two sources in Sweden about what type of player the Bruins are getting, and they had vastly different opinions.

According to an NHL scout who lives in Stockholm and covers the Swedish Elite League, Soderberg gained a reputation as a power forward who struggled to leave his hometown of Malmo and never played as physical as he should have against other physical players.

"He has looked almost scared in the past when playing against physical opponents, mostly North American players," the scout said.

Niklas Wikegard, a former player and coach in the SEL who serves as a television analyst for the league, said Soderberg was slowed a few years ago by a serious eye injury that nearly ended his career. Wikegard added that Soderberg proved this season in Linkoping he can fulfill his potential as a high-scoring, physical, two-way center.

He was second in the SEL with 60 points in 54 games.

"Don't get me wrong here, he's not at Joe Thornton's level of play, but he's a Joe Thornton-type player," Wikegard said. "He's a hard-working, two-way forward. He's strong on the puck, strong on the boards, wins most of the battles, plays physically. I'm talking in the Swedish League now, not the NHL. The people that play over here have a lot of respect for him."

Wikegard warned that Soderberg lost some vision in his left eye when he suffered his injury in 2007 and as a result tends to look to his right to pass the puck off the rush.

The Swedish NHL scout said he thinks Soderberg can produce for the Bruins if he lines up with other skilled players, but he may be struggle in a physical game, especially in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"I think he's a player that you can intimidate," the scout said.

Wikegard said he believes Soderberg's age (27) and experience will help him make an immediate impact.

"He never played there [in the NHL] and the tempo is much higher, but he's not a junior coming in," Wikegard said. "He's a senior personality. He's smart. He's strong, big and he knows what he can do. With respect to the best league in the world, I would absolutely say he can come in and be a good player."

Dupuis doesn't need Crosby to score

Pascal Dupuis' scoring could have been considered a byproduct of playing with Sidney Crosby, but Dupuis has nine points (four goals) since the Pittsburgh Penguins captain was forced out of the lineup with a broken jaw.

"My abilities are the same," Dupuis told NHL.com. "I'm not going to change the way I play at 34 years old. But confidence-wise, I think it's at the highest point it's been at any point in my career."

Pascal Dupuis
Right Wing - PIT
GOALS: 20 | ASST: 15 | PTS: 35
SOG: 125 | +/-: 28
Dupuis credits Crosby for helping him build that confidence throughout this season, but he worried it would take a hit after the Penguins acquired Jarome Iginla because he wondered if Iginla was brought in to take his role as the right wing on Crosby's line.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma quickly eliminated that concern.

"The same day we acquired Jarome, I got pulled aside and he said, 'I know you saw who we acquired and it is nothing against you and it's not going to work against you. You're still Sid's linemate,'" Dupuis said. "He mentioned it to the media right away too. That was really big, knowing that an all-star player and a known goal-scorer like Iggy was coming on our team and they were still going to leave me there."

Dupuis said he expects to be Crosby's linemate whenever the Penguins captain returns.

Dekeyser making speedy transition

Detroit Red Wings defenseman Danny Dekeyser said nothing about his first five NHL games has been overwhelming, not even the speed, which has been known to throw off many players coming directly from college.

"I would say overall the game isn't a whole lot quicker [than the college game]," Dekeyser, who was playing for Western Michigan University last month, told NHL.com. "There are times when guys are coming down the wing and they're flying, so that would be the one thing I have noticed about the speed. But it's more individual plays and not an overall game speed."

Maybe Dekeyser feels that way because he has adapted well to the speed, or at least had a good idea of what to expect because his coach in college was Andy Murray, the former coach of the Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues.

"He's a 10-year NHL coach, and since he's been there [at Western Michigan] it's run more like a pro-style program," Dekeyser said. "I've noticed that since I left there and came here there's not a whole lot that's different. Obviously there are different players and more skill, but everything he does there with video and with practice planning and the meetings and when we're on the road, he just treats us like professionals. It's been really a smooth transition for me because of what he does there."

Weekes: Reimer proving adversity won't stop him

James Reimer is 4-1-1 with a .942 save percentage and 1.80 goals-against average since Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis talked trade with the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks until the deadline April 3.

Reimer has improved his record this season to 17-5-5, dropped his GAA from 2.52 to 2.36, and raised his save percentage from .920 to .925. The Maple Leafs also hadn't allowed a power-play goal in eight straight games (28-for-28) heading into their game Tuesday at the Washington Capitals.

"You can sink or swim and he chose to swim, so good on him," NHL Network analyst and former goalie Kevin Weekes told NHL.com. "You need mental toughness to play and stay in 'The Show.' Very few guys have rose petals thrown at their feet, so you have to be able to deal with adversity."

Weekes outlined a few of the reasons he thinks Reimer has been able to persevere through the adversity to be a true No. 1 goalie.

"His glove hand is improving; it was sub-NHL level last year," he said. "He's more athletic in the net and can respond to lateral plays, broken plays, deflections, and he's a better second-shot goalie this year. That has to do with being in better shape. He lost 20 pounds."

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Quote of the Day

When we started our journey we made a commitment to our fans to be relevant and to see the Chicago Blackhawks become the best professional hockey organization. There are not two finer symbols of that than Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. The commitment we have made to these incredible young men is equal to the commitment they have made to our team, our fans, our entire organization and the city of Chicago.

— Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz on signing Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to contract extensions