The NHL Closer is written by Greg Wyshynski, of FanHouse and The Fourth Period. He is also the author of Glow Pucks And 10-Cent Beer.

Before we get to titillating photos of Alexander Ovechkin, we must acknowledge a proud moment in New York Islanders history. No, not their 3-2 skills competition victory over the Capitals last night. (This Duff's for you, Comrie). I'm talking about the return of the deleterious Chris Simon to active duty after serving the longest suspension in NHL history. So, exactly, who can we blame for the utter embarrassment of seeing this seven-time loser back on the ice?


When we last saw Chris Simon, he was using the Ginzu strapped to his foot to stomp on the ankle of Jarkko Ruutu near the benches, which earned him a 30-game suspension that trumped the 25 games he earned previously for attempting to make candy fall out of Ryan Hollweg's head. The Ruutu incident is even more disgusting and reckless given the recent new context about skate blades; by the way, Zednik will speak to the media for the first time this afternoon.

Since then, Simon has sought counseling for his on-ice anger and Coach Ted Nolan appears ready to reinsert him into the lineup tonight against Tampa Bay. Ah yes, the psychiatric route: a highway jammed with ex-gays and Michael Richards on a last chance power drive. Simon raised his hands, did a dance and proclaimed he was cured yesterday: "I've taken this time to really think about what I've done, and I'm really excited to get back to prove to myself and everybody that I can play within the rules." This coming from a guy who has been suspended for everything from baseball-style stick swings to dropping an N-bomb on Mike Grier.

If you're getting the feeling that I don't believe Simon belongs back in the NHL ... well, check out the big brain on Brad. Simon is a seven-time loser; the only thing separating him from being Steve Howe is that he's never snorted lines from the top of a urinal at Dodgers Stadium. (Well, that and the whole breathing thing.) It's an embarrassment that he's been given another chance this late in his career. You can't blame Nolan or the Islanders, because they're just using a player that's available to them. You can blame the mainstream hockey media, because it has allowed his positive contributions in his several stops in the NHL and his charitable efforts off the ice to cloud the fact that he's one psychotic incident away from maiming someone. And, of course, you can lay all the blame on the NHL for giving Rick Tocchet a longer suspension for not betting on hockey than it gave Chris Simon for using his equipment as weaponry.


The bottom line is that if Simon had attacked Brendan Shanahan and Sidney Crosby instead of Ryan Hollweg and Jarkko Ruutu, he'd be skating in a beer league tonight.

The Many Loves of Alexander Ovechkin. By now you may have heard that Alex Ovechkin has a cute, blonde girlfriend that he met over the Internet. And she's being candid about what a sap the guy is: "Sasha is a very romantic person. People like him don't exist. They say sports stars got to be arrogant, difficult people. Not Ovechkin!"

Obviously, the first amazing thing is that he met a Russian girl over the Internet, got her to the U.S. and hasn't had to marry her yet. And that, also, she doesn't actually look like Azamat from "Borat." This story has opened the flood gates to other tales about the private lives of other Russian stars, over on the wickedly awesome HF Boards. That's where I found this quickly-circulating photo that appears to be Ovie, Andrei Markov and a whole lotta "what the hell happened last night?" Man, I have to party with this kid at some point in my life.

Thomas Vanek Is a Prophet. So Vanek makes a proclamation on Sunday that the Sabres will be in the playoffs. And then he scored his second hat trick in five games last night against Tampa: A natural trick that included the game-winner in overtime. Buffalo's tied with Boston and the Flyers — who'll be without Simon Gagne for the rest of the season — with 66 points in the 7-through-9 holes in the East. The trade deadline's going to decide everything here: If Buffalo's forced to trade defenseman Brian Campbell, if Philly makes a panic move, or if the Rangers, who are just two points up on the trio, can figure their shit out. But if Montreal is ordering equipment for Marian Hossa's measurements, it might be a quick exit for any of them should they meet the Habs in round one.

Puck Headlines

* I recently served as an expert witness in the Pensblog trial examining the curious case of Marc-Andre Fleury vs. ConkBlock, appearing along with Mirtle, Marty the Chicken and a Giant Water Bottle. You'll not read anything more bizarre, stealthy insightful and Photoshop-glorious today. [Pensblog]

* Mike Chen remembers sex with Wayne Gretzky like it was yesterday. [Mike Chen]

* ESPN's Terry Frei declares war on transplant fans. "Those 'visiting team' fans deserve it when they're obnoxious transplants whose retained childhood or family-roots sports loyalties are part of a more aggravating bigger-picture attitude." [Fire Jay Mariotti]

* Finally, the KB continues its tournament of The Greatest Hit in NHL History, which has now officially run longer than a Phish cover of R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet." Another semifinal, pairing Stevens on Kozlov against Trevor Linden on Jeff Norton. Since Stevens-on-Lindros is the gold-standard of Scottie hits, I throw my support behind this Linden hit, even if it resorts to Carrot Top-like prop comedy: