The Afternoon Shift – Dec. 9

Naughty or nice? / Photo by Getty Images

Peace on earth and goodwill to men? So much for that.

Former Griffins Matt Ellis, Ville Leino and Chris Neil were at the center of separate NHL incidents on Wednesday in which fists, elbows and sticks to the gut were exchanged in lieu of gifts. And our friends at Yahoo’s Puck Daddy blog give us a little insight into each.

Two occurred during Buffalo’s 5-4 overtime loss to Philadelphia. The Sabres’ Ville Leino put an elbow to the head of Matt Read while stealing the puck early in the third period, incurring no penalty on the play but since drawing a one-game suspension — the first of his career — from NHL warden Brendan Shanahan.

More surprising, perhaps, was a fight involving Ellis, who is obviously a gritty and hard-nosed player but who had not dropped the gloves since his rookie season with the Griffins, when he fought Utah’s Brett Draney on Jan. 9, 2004.

Ellis’ bout was not without cause, as he came to the defense of Nathan Gerbe, who was crushed into the boards from behind by the Flyers’ Marc-Andre Bourdon. The consummate teammate, Ellis immediately rushed in to deliver some retribution during his first NHL scrap.

Fighting, of course, is usually the province of Neil, a bruiser who led Grand Rapids in penalty minutes during both 1999-00 and 2000-01, and who still stands fourth on the club’s career chart with 655 PIM. During the Senators’ 5-3 home loss to Washington, Neil was on the receiving end of a subtle but unmistakable spear from Alex Ovechkin after delivering a hard check to the Caps’ star in the corner.

But in a referee’s decision no doubt influenced by their relative statures and reputations, it was only Neil who would receive a penalty. Despite the fact that he was forced to leave the game for a short time, Neil was assessed a two-minute unsportsmanlike penalty for diving, while Ovechkin escaped punishment for his misdeed.

For all those kids fearful of receiving nothing but a stocking full of coal as a result of their behavior during the past year, perhaps that can serve as a ray of hope.

Griffins links:

AHL link:

Alumni news and notes:

NHL alumni goals:

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