Flyers goalie's dash to fight unwilling foe may prompt rule tweak

It's the equivalent of putting a stop sign at a busy intersection after an accident, but the NHL will consider modifying its rules after it found no specific rule to support further punishing Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Ray Emery for his rink-length dash to fight an unwilling Braden Holtby last Friday.

Whatever your view of fighting, the other bouts among the Flyers and Washington Capitals involved willing participants. Holtby, the Capitals' goalie, wanted no part of Emery and shook his head negatively several times before Emery unleashed a series of blows, some to the back of Holtby's head. Capitals rookie Michael Latta approached — probably to intervene — but was waved away by referee Francois St. Laurent.

Emery got a game misconduct among his 29 penalty minutes, but the Department of Player Safety didn't fine or suspend him despite having a precedent: during the 2012 playoffs, Ottawa's Matt Carkner was suspended one game for fighting an unwilling Brian Boyle of the New York Rangers. Emery played — and won — the Flyers' next game.

Commissioner Gary Bettman told the Columbus Dispatch no rule had been violated "to elevate things to the level of a suspension." He added, "I don't think anybody liked it, liked what it looked like. Fortunately it's not something that happens very often. But I'm sure it's something we'll focus on, particularly with the general managers." League general managers are scheduled to meet next week in Toronto.

In 2008, the NHL reinterpreted its definition of unsportsmanlike conduct one day after then-New York Ranger Sean Avery positioned himself in front of New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur and waved his stick to obscure Brodeur's view. General managers can suggest a rule reinterpretation here or recommend suspending any goalie who crosses the red line to initiate a fight.

The Flyers had casualties from the Capitals' game. Philadelphia forward Steve Downie suffered a concussion and is out indefinitely, and forward Vincent Lecavalier sustained facial injuries but might play Tuesday. Flyers GM Paul Holmgren had acquired Downie from Colorado a few days earlier, another in a series of questionable moves that have put the Flyers near the bottom of the East.

It might not be long until owner Ed Snider fires Holmgren and promotes assistant GM Ron Hextall. But Snider first must realize this isn't 1975 and bullying won't win games anymore.

Olympian task

Nashville GM David Poile, who is also general manager of the U.S. men's hockey team for the Sochi Games, is taking advantage of the Predators' seven-game trip to do some Olympic scouting.

While in Phoenix, he monitored gifted defenseman Keith Yandle; while in Los Angeles, he looked at Kings goalie Jonathan Quick and winger Dustin Brown. Good news for Brown: His spot on Team USA is safe despite his slow start.

"He's a guy that was a foundation player on the 2010 [team] and that we've made part of our leadership group. We want him on the team," Poile said. "His body of work is clearly Olympic-worthy."

Other slumping players are "losing steam" and could be passed by more deserving candidates. "If somebody is really off their game, though, you've got to pay close attention to what they're doing and how they're improving," Poile said. "Nobody in this business can live off their laurels very long."

Poile and fellow Team USA executives hold conference calls every other Monday and frequently text one another to share observations. They'll meet next week in Toronto and again in early December. The 25-man roster will be announced Jan. 1.

Injuries to Rangers forward Ryan Callahan and Montreal Canadiens winger Max Pacioretty complicated the evaluation process, but there's a wealth of choices at every position. Defense has been particularly bountiful, with Yandle, the Ducks' Cam Fowler, St. Louis' Kevin Shattenkirk, Carolina's Justin Faulk, Washington's John Carlson, Winnipeg's Dustin Byfuglien, Pittsburgh's Paul Martin and Poile's own Seth Jones getting scrutiny.

"It's not just picking the 25 most skilled players. We're trying to pick a team," Poile said. "If we don't have anybody that can play the point on the power play, then we've got to change that. Or who are our penalty killers? Who are our power play guys? It's all that type of thing to put a lineup together.

"The good news is we've got a lot of choices and a lot of newer guys on the scene who are coming into their own, so there are decisions at every position."

Slap shots

Identical twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin signed identical contract extensions with the Vancouver Canucks last week. Each deal is for $7 million a year for four years. Both are thriving under new Coach John Tortorella, who added penalty killing to their duties.

Boston winger Loui Eriksson skated Saturday for the first time since he suffered a concussion on a hit to the head from Buffalo's John Scott. The defending East champion Bruins are 2-3 without him….Montreal forward Daniel Briere, who suffered a concussion Oct. 19, resumed skating….Columbus will host the next NHL All-Star game and festivities on Jan. 24-25, 2015.

Twitter: @helenenothelen

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