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Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos says players must eliminate dangerous head shots

BRANDON — The way Steven Stamkos sees it, the onus is back on the players to eliminate the dangerous head shots that have plagued the league.

The Lightning center called it great to expand Rule 48 to allow minor or match penalties for hits in which "the head is targeted and the principal point of contact." The rule previously prohibited only lateral or blind-side hits to the head.

"Now it falls upon us as players to be accountable," Stamkos said last week at the Ice Sports Forum. "I don't know what other rules you can put in place. Guys have to be responsible."

Concussions caused by malicious hits are a hot-button issue for the league.

Penguins All-Star Sidney Crosby might not be ready for the season because of concussion symptoms that began after a brutal head shot Jan. 1 from then-Capitals C David Steckel. The career of Bruins C Marc Savard might be over after he played only 32 games in the past year and a half because of two concussions, one coming on a blind-side hit to the head from Penguins pest Matt Cooke.

"I'm not saying every hit that resulted in a concussion was avoidable," Stamkos said. "It's a contact sport. It's so fast, you're going to get them. But in order to minimize them, you have to be aware of the situation on the ice.

"You look at some of these head shots, guys are blatantly putting their elbows up. A guy's back is turned and you hit him into the boards. That comes down to common sense. We all know how to deliver a clean body check. You have to be accountable for your actions on the ice."

MORE HEAD SHOTS: Stamkos also wants the league to set a standard for suspending players whose checks target the head rather than first assessing the result of the hit:

"If it's a shot to the head, it shouldn't depend on if a guy is out with a concussion for a year or if he's out for that shift. It should be a standard. You get hit in the head, it's a head shot, and you have to deal with it."

MALONE MENDING: GM Steve Yzerman said he fully expects W Ryan Malone (shoulder) to be ready for the regular season. But don't expect to see Malone in a game until the final two of the preseason, Sept. 29 and Oct. 1 with the Canadiens.

"We'll limit the games just to be cautious," Yzerman said.

DEPTH PERCEPTION: Tampa Bay's 58-player training camp roster (check it out at tampabay.com/blogs/lightning) includes 10 invitees, none of whom are expected to make the big club but will compete for minor-league positions.

That is not surprising.

The Lightning, about $6 million under the $64.3 million salary cap, wants that flexibility so it can add pieces before the trade deadline, as it did last season with G Dwayne Roloson and D Eric Brewer.

And with perhaps only two spots open, both at forward, and a handful of candidates — including wings Dana Tyrell, Mattias Ritola and Carter Ashton, and centers Blair Jones and Tom Pyatt — Yzerman already has more than enough to consider.

"With only six preseason games, we want everybody playing in those games," Yzerman said. "I want those guys playing as many minutes as possible."

CAMP SCHEDULE: Camp begins Sept. 16 at the Ice Sports Forum with off-ice testing. On-ice workouts begin Sept. 17.

ODDS AND ENDS: AHL Norfolk G Dustin Tokarski, who missed July's development camp because of what the team called a minor abdominal injury sustained during last season's playoffs, said the injury is progressing and he expects to skate this week. … Lightning players attending the rookie tournament in Coral Springs that includes the Panthers and the Predators will skate at the Ice Sports Forum on Sept. 10. Games begin Sept. 11 at the Saveology Iceplex.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos says players must eliminate dangerous head shots 09/03/11 [Last modified: Saturday, September 3, 2011 9:41pm]
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