NHL season hitting stride with injuries, trash talk, suspensions

USA TODAY Sports

With a third of the schedule in the books, the 2013 NHL season is starting to enter crazy time.

As every hockey fan will tell you, hockey is a beautiful sport marked by high-speed skill, physicality, and athletic feats you should not be able to do on skates.

It's also marked by brutality, bitterness and blurry understandings of where the rules stop and "that's hockey" begins.

We're now a third of the way through the lockout-shortened 2013 NHL season, so we have enough games in the books to establish a chorus of concurrent storylines that feed fans' appetite for drama.

You have major injuries that will affect outcomes, such as Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin's concussion, Ottawa Senators star Erik Karlsson's season-ending Achilles tendon injury, and New York Rangers star Rick Nash's undisclosed malady.

You have suspensions and lack thereof: None for Matt Cooke for slicing Karlsson's tendon, none for Mark Olver concussing hot rookie Vladimir Tarasenko with a hit to the head, and none for Max Pacioretty's injurious hit on Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh. But Edmonton Oilers star Taylor Hall received two games for kneeing Cal Clutterbuck and San Jose's Ryan Close received two games for leaving the bench to accost Andrew Shaw.

Off the ice, you have Blackhawks announcer Ed Olczyk doing his "for all the kids out there" routine, ripping Oilers rookie Nail Yakupov for daring to dodge a hit from noted intent-to-injure culprit Dan Carcillo. You have Washington Capitals forward Troy Brouwer continuing the fine tradition of announcers and Capitals grinders by ripping former Caps teammate Alexander Semin.

From the league office, you have scuttlebutt about a pretty revolutionary realignment as well as talk of allowing a coach's challenge in future seasons.

Oh, and lest we forget why we watch the actual games, the Chicago Blackhawks still haven't lost in regulation, reeling off a record-breaking 16-0-3 start to their season, and after a slow start the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings have now won four games in a row.

It's hard to believe that less than two months ago there was no interesting NHL news for months, and people seriously considered whether the lockout would wipe out the entire season. Instead, here we are a third of the way through a compressed schedule, and the drama is warming up to fever pitch on and off the ice.

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