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NHL discipline brings mixed feelings

If you ask the Buffalo Sabres, the National Hockey League only got things half right when meting out punishment from Saturday's preseason game against Toronto.

A two-game suspension handed down to Buffalo winger Brad Boyes for an elbow to the head of Joe Colborne seemed reasonable in their eyes. No review and no suspension of Toronto's Colby Armstrong for plummeting Paul Gaustad into the boards from behind does not, and that ruling drew plenty of discussion at practice Tuesday in First Niagara Center.

Gaustad suffered a stiff neck on the first-period hit but immediately got up and returned to the bench. The fact he wasn't injured clearly entered into the thinking of new NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan.

"I'm going to try to bite my tongue as much as possible," Gaustad said. "I'm just a little bit disappointed by it because I'm not the type of player that stays down. If I get up, I get up. They haven't asked how I'm doing. The NHL hasn't asked me. They don't know if I'm injured or not. They didn't check on it, at least to my knowledge."

"If he's hurt, we may see something different," said coach Lindy Ruff. "There's areas that still have to be explained why or why not [a suspension is given]. There's a break-in period from Brendan's point of view and our point of view."

The league produced videos for teams to watch on new rules regarding head shots and boarding, posting them for fans as well on NHL.com. Gaustad said his play seemed to mirror the hits from behind the league wants eliminated.

"From what I saw, I hope that's not a legal hit," Gaustad said. "Because if it is, I could haven't gotten hurt more than I was. I just have to move on. I'm all right now. It was a stiff neck and things like that. It's been three days. I'm over, I'm past it."

"From the video they showed us, they have different explanations for different hits," added winger Jason Pominville, himself a victim of a concussion-inducing hit from behind last season by Chicago's Niklas Hjalmarsson. "I'm not even sure if I know the rules perfectly. It's kind of fresh to us. I still think it was a hit from behind and those are the kind of things you want to take away."

Ruff said he didn't think much of the Boyes hit when he saw it live but reviewed it after the game when the league informed the Sabres it was under review. He said he agreed with the ruling the initial contact was made on Colborne's head.

"There was no intention to hit him high but it did come up," said Boyes, who had never been suspended before. "I know they're trying to get that stuff out of the game and I agree with that part. I don't think I could have done anything different hitting him lower. It wasn't intentional to get him high. I didn't try to, didn't think I did, but the replay showed it was."

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Defenseman Shaone Morrisonn, who cleared waivers Monday, reported to Rochester and practiced with the Amerks on Tuesday. Winger Ales Kotalik, who also cleared, has remained in Buffalo and the team is working on an arrangement, presumably a deal with a team in Europe.

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Gaustad has decided to wear a visor this season, largely in response to the serious eye injury suffered March 16 by Vancouver's Manny Malhotra.

"I've had a couple close calls myself," said Gaustad, who used one in juniors with Portland of the Western Hockey League. "I tried it in the world championships and kept it over the summer and it's just developed.

"I got a shot right off it [Saturday], hit me square on the visor, saved me there. So far, it's been 1-0 for the visor."

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Tonight's public scrimmage actually begins with an autograph session at 4:30 for the first 3,000 fans. Fans will be given tickets to line up at tables that will be placed throughout the concourse.

The scrimmage itself begins at 7.

email: mharrington@buffnews.com