Boden: Inconsistency plagues NHLs Dept. of Player Safety

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Boden: Inconsistency plagues NHLs Dept. of Player Safety

A bad call. And its a bad call because of the inconsistencies that have suddenly plagued the NHLs Department of Player Safety.

Blackhawks fans (and Im guessing the Blackhawks themselves) could live with this three-game suspension to Andrew Shaw if Shea Weber had gotten, say, five or more for grabbing Henrik Zetterbergs head and smashing it into the glass.

They couldve lived with it if Ottawas Matt Carkner had gotten more than three for racing across the ice to repeatedly pummel the Rangers Brian Boyle in the head while Boyle covered up and took it like a turtle disappearing into its shell.

They probably couldve lived with it a little better if Daniel Sedin had gotten something -- at least a fine -- for the elbow that forced Duncan Keiths head into the glass before Keith got his five games. All of us would understand this a little more.

I wont even start to get into the Pittsburgh-Philadelphia mess the department has on its hands. And theres much more beyond these instances in this first week of the post-season thats been full of Shanahan-igans. But part of the reason he has this mess is he took his foot off the brake he was applying to trying to remove or limit head shots from the NHL.

I loved what Brendan Shanahan was doing with the first five months of the season in order to crack down on dangerous hits. Concussions were starting to make more news than the great game he played and all of us enjoy, and that wasnt a good thing. So he was taking such positive, no-nonsense steps in doing his best job to eliminate that. Steve Konroyd and I praised him often during our coverage. This opinion now isnt simply because its suddenly hitting home. Hawks fans can deal with that. Its the perception hes ignoring or minimizing certain things that seem so obvious (Weber), and then continuing to put the hammer down on other hits. Its like a traffic cop suddenly writing tickets for going five miles an hour over the speed limit, and letting someone going fifty over the limit drive away with a warning.

On top of that, he put an unnecessary extra day into the process. Were only left to assume that was to make sure Mike Smith was OK. If hes concussed, symptoms dont always show up right away. Smith said he was 100 percent after the game. The team didnt practice Sunday. He was held out yesterday but head coach Dave Tippett indicated he was fine. Smith went through his normal morning skate routine this morning, but was made unavailable to reporters with the leagues blessing, while Tippett later suddenly called him a game-time decision as the Blackhawks continued to wait to hear about Shaws availability.

Make no mistake, Smith will be in the net tonight after winning Best Actor in a Drama. But playing that card (and maybe the Hawks wouldve done the same if the tables were turned), leaves many wondering how much Shanahan got played by the uncertain Smith status the Coyotes sold Shanahan -- apparently to the hilt. Successfully.

Shaw deserved a penalty because goalies are protected that way by the rulebook. The game misconduct he got was a tough break. Jonathan Toews said yesterday that should be it -- the Hawks lost him for half the game while Smith stayed in. But Shanahan thought what Shaw did was worse than an additional fine. Was worse than one additional game. Or two games. So Toews must now make sure his team doesnt get knocked off the tracks by all this, and do the things it needs to do to win, despite the anger and frustration they probably feel right now. Just execute, and play the best possible way they know to beat the Coyotes, without a guy whos made huge contributions for them in getting to this point. Or tell Corey Crawford to play a puck behind the net and hope a Coyotes player bumps into him.

Phoenix won this one. But the series is still tied, and needs to be won now that this over-dramatization by one team, and the league office, is over.

James Shields earns first victory as White Sox top Twins

James Shields earns first victory as White Sox top Twins

James Shields received his first standing ovation of the season at U.S. Cellular Field as he headed to the dugout on Wednesday night.

The White Sox starter settled in after another shaky start and his offense kicked it into high gear in an 9-6 victory over the Minnesota Twins in front of 18,571. Shields limited the Twins to a leadoff solo homer in the first inning and pitched into the seventh to earn his first win for the White Sox. Brett Lawrie, Tyler Saladino and Todd Frazier all homered for the White Sox, who have won six of their last nine and are 39-39. Nate Jones earned the save after Matt Purke and Dan Jennings combined to allow five runs in the ninth inning.

The scenario looked all too familiar for Shields as Eduardo Nunez opened the game with a solo home run on an 0-1 pitch to put the Twins ahead.

Shields, who had a 21.81 ERA in his first three starts with the White Sox, two of which resulted in him being booed off the mound by the home crowd, found even more trouble. He recorded pair of outs but walked Brian Dozier and he scooted to third on Trevor Plouffe’s single. But more in line with his last start in Boston, Shields took another big step forward and got out of trouble, stranding two. Two innings later, Shields worked around consecutive singles to start the third as he induced double play off Joe Mauer’s bat and Dozier’s bunt attempt resulted in a comebacker.

Adam Eaton assisted Shields in a big way in the fifth inning when he easily threw out Kurt Suzuki at home. Suzuki, who started the play on first, was forced home as Nunez nearly caught him speeding into third. But Shields stranded Nunez in scoring position as well as another runner in the sixth. He recorded two more outs before giving way after a Byron Buxton double.

As he exited, Shields was showered with applause from the appreciative crowd.

He allowed a run and eight hits in 6 2/3 innings, striking out five and walking one.

One night after they couldn’t provide for Jose Quintana, the White Sox offense went overboard for Shields. Lawrie’s opposite-field solo homer with two outs in the second inning off Ricky Nolasco tied the game at 1. J.B. Shuck then singled, stole second and scored on an RBI single by Avisail Garcia.

The White Sox never looked back as Saladino’s solo shot in the fifth made it a 3-1 game. Frazier started a five-run sixth inning with a solo homer -- the team’s 13th consecutive solo homer. Saladino singled in a run with two outs to chase Nolasco and make it 5-1. Tim Anderson’s two-run single made it a blowout and Eaton singled him in to make it 8-1. Shuck added a sac fly in the seventh for the White Sox, who went 5-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

Denzel Valentine: Bulls' versatility will 'make us so dangerous'

Denzel Valentine: Bulls' versatility will 'make us so dangerous'

The Bulls are undergoing a "retooling" in their backcourt after dealing Derrick Rose to the Knicks, drafting Denzel Valentine and attempting to re-sign E'Twaun Moore in free agency.

That, combined with Jimmy Butler, the addition of Jerian Grant and an already versatile frontcourt will give Fred Hoiberg plenty of options that Valentine believes will make the Bulls "dangerous" in 2016-17.

"I think that's going to make us so dangerous this year, is we are versatile with our guards," He said on Wednesday night's White Sox broadcast. "And in those three positions I feel like we're going to be able to guard and do a lot of things offensively and throw a lot at you when we're coming down on offense. And the defensive end, too.

"I think we're going to have a really good team this year with all that we have, and I'm glad to be part of the building year, or whatever you want to call it."

On paper the Bulls will have more versatility than a year ago. Valentine is capable of playing either wing position and can handle the ball, though he doesn't project as a point guard. Butler can play and defend four positions, and Grant is capable of playing either guard spot. Bringing back E'Twaun Moore would benefit that versatility greatly, as he's capable of playing on or off the ball.

In the frontcourt, the Bulls will need to replace Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah, neither of whom provided much versatility. Robin Lopez is entrenched at center, which will give the Bulls' stretch forwards Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis more room to roam the perimeter.

Wherever Valentine plays, and however Hoiberg uses him in Year 1, the Michigan State rookie said he's ready to do what's asked of him from a franchise known for winning.

"My job is to just come in, do what I can do best and just work on my game and try to lead as best as I can," he said on SportsTalk Live (in the video above). "I'm not coming in to step on anybody's toes but I'm going to do what I can to lead and be a good teammate and try to win some games."

White Sox P Zach Putnam: 'It was definitely time to speak up' about injured elbow

White Sox P Zach Putnam: 'It was definitely time to speak up' about injured elbow

He’s evaluating his options and hopes for the best, but Zach Putnam knew it was time to speak up to the White Sox about his right elbow.  

The White Sox right-hander is on the 15-day disabled list with ulnar neuritis in his right elbow. His options are two types of surgery, including reconstructive elbow surgery, or to rehab the injury. Putnam said he’s constantly dealt with some general soreness in the same area in which he had bone spurs removed during an August 2013 surgery. But some of the pain Putnam -- who has a 2.30 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings this season -- recently has felt is beyond what he had previously experienced.

“My last two outings … I started having some pretty serious issues again that I couldn’t ignore,” Putnam said. “It’s one of those things were you’ve got to try to find the line between what you can work through and what’s typical reliever stuff and when to say something. I felt like in my opinion that it was definitely time to speak up.”

“I was having a hard time throwing strikes, losing some feeling in my fingers. It was starting to become an issue. Like I said, we are trying to address it non-surgically and hope for the best. Worst-case scenario, yeah probably end up having something done. But we are going to try to avoid that.”

Putnam has been working out, but hasn’t thrown a baseball. The current plan calls for resting his arm and letting the inflammation die down. But he could at least attempt to play catch again soon, perhaps this weekend when he accompanies the team to Houston.

“I’m just not doing baseball specific stuff,” Putnam said. “I’m not throwing right now. That may change in the next couple of days as we try to ramp it back up. We are not going to waste too much time down from throwing. It kind of defeats the purpose.”

“I’m going to continue to work on it every day and maybe start throwing for the first time over the weekend. Not totally sure. As I say, it’s day to day. Every day I come in, we try to evaluate. Meeting with team doctors every other day to try to figure out where we are at and what the next step is.”