FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The NHL doled out plenty of punishment last week, suspending five players for separate incidents.
Pittsburgh enforcer Georges Laraque was suspended three games for an elbow to the head of Buffalo's Nathan Paetsch. Dallas forward Steve Ott also was suspended three games for a hit to the head of Colorado's Jordan Leopold. Buffalo forward Andrew Peters got a one-game suspension for his altercation with the Rangers' Colton Orr, as did Chicago defenseman James Wisniewski for a cross check to the neck of Detroit's Mikael Samuelsson.
And Saturday, Anaheim's Chris Pronger was suspended eight games for stomping on the leg of Vancouver's Ryan Kesler.
The league hadn't issued a suspension since Jan. 23 after handing out 10 the first three months of the season. Two have been issued to Carolina players, one to Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk.
Since the lockout, the NHL has doled out 50 suspensions -- eight to players in the Southeast Division -- according to a recent analysis by the Raleigh News & Observer. Not a single one has involved the Panthers or one of their opponents.
Here's what bothers the Hurricanes, and should raise an eyebrow from the other 23 U.S.-based teams: Of the 50 suspensions, only five were assessed to players on Canadian teams while almost one-third (15) of the suspensions were for acts committed against one of the league's six Canadian teams.
If you believe in conspiracy theories, then you believe that Canadian teams are shown favoritism. In an e-mail to the News & Observer, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said those stats are by "random chance" and that "the process is blind as to player nationality and team identity."
Colin Campbell, the league's director of hockey operations whose son, Gregory, plays for the Panthers, also says that's not the case.
"We don't try to look at a pattern here," Campbell told the News & Observer. "Maybe we should. It's not who's in first and who's in last. We try to look at it as an independent, individual situation: Is a player wronging another player?"
Hurricanes forward Erik Cole told the newspaper: "I guess you want your division or your team to be shown the same amount of respect as other teams or other markets, but that's not always going to be the case."
WILD 2, KINGS 0, at St. Paul, Minn. -- Niklas Backstrom's first shutout since October and Marian Gaborik's 200th NHL goal helped Minnesota beat Los Angeles and snap a five-game skid.
LIGHTNING 3, RANGERS 0, at Tampa, Fla. -- Mike Smith made 20 saves to earn his third shutout this season and lead Tampa Bay past New York.
DUCKS 5, BLUES 2, at Anaheim -- Rob Niedermayer broke open a tie game with a pair of third-period goals and Anaheim extended its club-record home winning streak to nine games.
OILERS 5, COYOTES 2, at Glendale, Ariz. -- Dwayne Roloson made 38 saves in his first start in six weeks to lead Edmonton over Phoenix for its fourth win in five games. Ales Hemsky, Joni Pitkanen, Kyle Brodziak, Marty Reasoner and Fernando Pisani all scored for the Oilers, who won the first three meetings between the teams this season.
CANUCKS 4, STARS 3, at Dallas -- Brendan Morrison scored the tiebreaking goal early in the third period.
SABRES 6, MAPLE LEAFS 2 , at Toronto -- Jason Pominville and Jochen Hecht each had a goal and two assists, and Buffalo moved within one point of the Eastern Conference's postseason cutoff.
CANADIENS 3, ISLANDERS 0, at Montreal -- Jaroslav Halak stopped 30 shots for his first shutout of the season.
PREDATORS 3, RED WINGS 1, at Detroit -- Rich Peverley's second-period goal broke a tie to help Nashville, which is fighting for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference, snap Detroit's five-game winning streak.
BRUINS 3, FLYERS 2 (OT), at Boston -- Andrew Ference tied the game with 27 seconds left in regulation, and Aaron Ward won it with 2:43 left in overtime.
DEVILS 4, AVALANCHE 2, at Denver -- Martin Brodeur stopped 24 shots in reaching 40 wins for a record seventh time, and New Jersey snapped Colorado's five-game winning streak.
Bee news services contributed to this report.