In news from Toronto, the League lowered the hammer on New York Islanders forward Chris Simon today, suspending him for 30 games, without pay, for deliberately kicking Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jarrko Ruutu in the third period of the game on December 15, 2007. Simon will be eligible to return on February 21, 2008 against the Tampa BayLightning. The sentence is the longest suspension in NHL history for an on-ice incident. In handing down the deservedly stiff ruling, NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell stated, “…the deliberate act of kicking an opponent with an exposed skate blade, especially where the opponent is in a vulnerable position, is and always has been a repugnant and totally unacceptable act in the game of hockey. In addition, while the act itself was extremely dangerous, the fact that this is the 8th incident requiring the imposition of supplementary discipline on Simon compelled me to impose a very severe penalty in this case. When a player repeatedly evidences the lack of ability to control his actions and conducts himself in total disregard of the rules, as well the health and safety of other players on the ice, each subsequent incident is deserving of enhanced scrutiny and more severe discipline. This response serves not only the purpose of imposing appropriate punishment for the player involved, but also the purpose of deterring the player and all other players from engaging in similar conduct in the future – hopefully creating a safer long-term work environment for all NHL players.” Simon is projected to forfeit $292,683 in salary which will go to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund. In other news, Left Wing Ryan Malone returned to Pittsburgh to undergo evaluation of an infected cut on his leg by team doctors. Malone will miss his second consecutive game as the Penguins face off against the Bruins in Boston on Thursday. Originally it was reported that he missed Tuesday’s game against the Rangers due to the Flu, which has been flowing through the Penguins locker room. Today it is reported that the leg infection caused the flu-like symptoms that kept Malone off the ice.
The Penguins, already in Boston for Thursday’s game, practiced at Boston University on Wednesday. General Manager Ray Shero announced that the Penguins have recalled forward Jeff Taffe from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and re-assigned forward Connor James back to the American Hockey League club. James was called up and registered 1-shot in 1 game against the New York Islanders on December 15th. Taffe, who has 21 points (12G, 9A) in 27 games this season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, is tied for 13th in AHL goals scored. Taffe notched 2-points (1G, 1A) in 3 NHL pre-season games with the Penguins. Signed by Pittsburgh as a free agent on July 13th, Taffe has 28-points (15G, 13A) in 100 NHL games played over the course of 4-seasons as a member of the Phoenix Coyotes and New York Rangers.