Nick Foligno fined, but not suspended, for hit to head on Patrick Dwyer; Did NHL make the right choice?

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Perhaps I’m still a bit stuck in last year’s murky suspension realm, as it’s hard to say what should be a hit that’s over the line. The problem in making these determinations, for me at least, comes when a defending player makes a “hockey play” at full speed. It’s the same dilemma that the NFL faces when it comes to corner backs or safeties lighting up a prone wide receiver; there’s a certain level of responsibility a player has to protect himself, but you still need to penalize dangerous hits.

In other words, I think the NHL is doing a better job so far this season when it comes to legislating hits. (As far as behavioral stuff such as James Wisniewski getting a two-game suspension vs. Sean Avery getting a six-game suspension for the same general juvenile antics? Well, that I’m not so sure about.)

The league passed along news that Ottawa Senators forward Nick Foligno will not face a suspension for his open-ice hit on Carolina Hurricanes skater Patrick Dwyer. Instead, the NHL fined Foligno $2,500 for the hit and gave this explanation for their verdict.

“While there was no injury as a result of the hit, it is clear that Foligno delivered a shoulder check from the blind side that made primary contact with Dwyer’s head,” said NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell. “It is also clear that Foligno was delivering the hit in an attempt to get the puck. Finally, in determining that a fine was the appropriate discipline for this incident, I took into account that Foligno has not been suspended previously by the League.”

I’ve said this before and I’ll probably echo the point several times this season, but I’ve never been a fan of punishing hits or altercations based on the severity of injuries since that’s such a random thing. If a hit is a dirty or suspension-worthy hit, then it should carry a suspension whether the victim is in a hospital bed or scoring goals the next period.

I do agree that Foligno was attempting to get the puck, which is why this check is in that difficult gray area. He should get some kind of punishment since it is the type of hit that the league is trying to get rid of, but how do you walk the tight rope between making things reasonably safe and removing the physicality (and violence) that is inherent to playing defense in this sport? It’s a tough call, but these decisions will set a precedent for the rest of the season.

But enough of what I think about the hit, how do you feel? Should he have been suspended, fined or left alone altogether? Vote in the poll below.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.