Kuhnhackl punished by OHL for head shot

| Sunday, Nov. 13, 2011

A Penguins prospect found himself in the middle of hockey's head shot debate this week.

Tom Kuhnhackl, the Penguins' fourth-round pick in 2010, was suspended 20 games by the Ontario Hockey League on Tuesday for a hit he delivered to Kitchener Rangers defenseman Ryan Murphy on Nov. 4.

Murphy was trying to play a puck behind his own net and had his head down when the 6-foot-2, 183-pound Kuhnhackl came charging down the left wing and delivered a violent check.

"I didn't try to hurt him," Kuhnhackl told the Niagara Falls Review. "I just tried to make a clean hit, but the OHL didn't think it was a clean hit."

According to reports, Kuhnhackl, who scored 39 goals in 63 games last year, suffered a knee injury while delivering the hit, so it's unclear how many of the 20 games he was suspended for he actually would have been able to play.

Injury report

Baby Pens captain Ryan Craig returned to action in the team's 4-2 win in Norfolk on Wednesday night, about three weeks after having arthroscopic knee surgery. He missed seven games.

"As a player, the moment you get hurt, your job is to get healthy," Craig said. "You can't sit and wallow in your self pity."

Massive 6-foot-7, 245-pound defenseman Boris Valabik, who signed with the Penguins in July but has yet to make his debut after preseason knee surgery, is skating with the Baby Pens. No timetable has been set for his return to game action.

Filling in on defense

With Valabik and Brian Strait injured and Alexandre Picard and Robert Bortuzzo on NHL recall, the Baby Pens played two games last weekend without the top four defensemen on their preseason depth chart.

With AHL veteran Joey Mormina, rookies Simon Despres and Philip Samuelsson and second-year pro Carl Sneep receiving copious amounts of ice time, the Baby Pens gave up all of two goals, beating Hershey 4-0 and Binghamton 2-1 in a shootout.

Conditioning stints

Forwards Dustin Jeffrey and Steve MacIntyre played the first games of their conditioning stints Wednesday in Norfolk.

MacIntyre threw a couple of highlight-reel hits and pummeled Norfolk's Scott Jackson in a third-period fight.

Jeffrey centered Eric Tangradi and Brian Gibbons. He played primarily on the left wing during his first six NHL games this season.

"Once he got his feet going and got himself re-acclimated to playing some key minutes, the second half of his game was good," Baby Pens coach John Hynes said.

Hynes said the Penguins would decide early this week when to recall Jeffrey and MacIntyre. Conditioning assignments can last no more than 14 days. After that, both players would have to clear waivers to stay in the AHL.

College kid

University of Nebraska-Omaha freshman center Josh Archibald, the Penguins' sixth-round pick in June's draft, is off to a strong start to his college career.

The 5-foot-10, 170-pound Minnesota native scored in his first three games - an exhibition with the University of British Columbia and regular-season games with Mercyhurst and Colgate. Archibald has five points in his first 10 games.

Jonathan Bombulie has covered the Baby Pens for the Citizens' Voice in Wilkes-Barre since the team's inception in 1999. He can be reached at jbombulie@aol.com.

Additional Information:

Player to watch

Ben Hanowski

St. Cloud State (NCAA) - Forward

6-foot-2 - 210 pounds

How acquired: Third-round pick, 63rd overall, in 2009 NHL draft

How he's doing: It's already been an eventful junior season for Hanowski. He's been named one of the team's captains, spent some time playing center rather than his natural position on the wing and emerged as one of the top scorers in the WCHA with 11 points in 10 games.

Why he might make it to the NHL: He's got good size and hockey sense and he's a natural goal-scoring winger, which is something the Penguins have been trying for years to develop internally.

Why he might not: His first two college seasons were not overly impressive, and he's not a great skater.

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