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Dreger Report: Yakupov back, Gardiner, and USHL on fighting

Darren Dreger
10/15/2013 2:54:49 PM
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Nail Yakupov's two-game exile ends Tuesday night when the Edmonton Oilers face the Penguins in Pittsburgh. 

Yakupov was scratched on Saturday in Toronto and despite the loss to the Maple Leafs, Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins rewarded his forwards by maintaining status quo Monday in Washington - which meant another night in the press box for the first overall pick in 2012.

The Oilers' concern with Yakupov is his play away from the puck and wanting to do everything himself.

And with the message received, expect Eakins to lean on Yakupov tonight in Pittsburgh with additional ice time to get him going.

In other news, the Toronto Maple Leafs continue to get calls on the availability of defenceman Jake Gardiner.

Sources tell The Dreger Report an additional two teams called last week to inquire about the possibility of a trade. But unless a substantial offer surfaces, Gardiner will not be traded and the Leafs insist they are not shopping him. 

It's believed last week's interest was generated by the ongoing media speculation. To date, Toronto has not received an offer for Gardiner.

Now the USHL provides the latest example of the frightening risks hockey players face when fighting.

Dylan Chanter - a defenceman for the Dubuque Fighting Saints - was injured on Saturday when his helmet slipped off during a fight just prior to Chanter smashing his head on the ice.

Warning: The attached video link of Saturday's incident is disturbing and very graphic.

Chanter was released from hospital on Saturday and has since used Twitter to announce his improving status.

The USHL, its hockey operations department and USA Hockey are investigating the incident and the league's existing fighting sanctions, while analyzing additional procedures to further reduce this type of incident.

Prior to introducing a comprehensive player safety initiative in 2012 - which includes a rule to keep helmets on in all situations - sources say the USHL considered adopting a fighting rule similar to what is used in college hockey, where a fight earns a player a five-minute major penalty plus a one-game suspension. However, the USHL opted not to follow the NCAA path and instead assesses fighting majors for those who drop their gloves.

USHL president and commissioner Skip Prince is quick to point out that the USHL averages one fight every two and half games.

It's unlikely the USHL will drastically alter it's rule book in-season, but USA Hockey is watching closely and could intervene if it's viewed that this matter isn't being properly addressed.

Meanwhile, a number of NHL general managers believe fighting should be banned from junior hockey, or at the very least, game misconducts should be applied to further manage the risk of significant injury...or worse. However, while open to do more to protect their players, some junior hockey executives challenge the NHL to set a new standard of fighting sanctions all development leagues might follow.

Darren Dreger

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