Winnipeg Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey will be forced to sit out Game 5 of Winnipeg’s first-round series on Friday after being suspended one game for a cross-check to the head of Minnesota Wild forward Eric Staal.
The NHL’s Department of Player Safety handed down the ruling on Wednesday evening. Morrissey had a hearing on Wednesday afternoon after a dangerous cross-check hit Staal in the side of the head in the first period of Tuesday’s 2-0 win for the Jets.
Winnipeg lead’s the best-of-7 series 3-1 as the series shifts back to Winnipeg for Game 5 on Friday night at Bell MTS Place.
In the DOPS video, department head George Parros states that while sticks occasionally ride up a player’s back or shoulder while a defender is trying to box out a forward, that simply wasn’t the case for Morrissey.
“[This is] not a routine motion to box out an opponent,” Parros said in the video. “Staal is in Morrissey’s field of vision, there is no on-going battle between the players. Morrissey is in control of the play and initiates contact.
“This is a reckless strike to an opponent’s neck, with sufficient force to merit supplemental discipline.”
Morrissey has not received a fine nor a suspension in 164 NHL games.
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After Tuesday’s game, Bruce Boudreau blamed the cross-check for the Wild’s loss. On Wednesday, Boudreau stuck to his guns.
“Well, usually I’m pretty subjective in that, OK, it was a bad call, but we didn’t deserve to win anyway, or this and that,” Boudreau said. “But that had a definite, … definite impact on the whole game. if you think that it would have been 5-on-3 and he would have been out of the game, they wouldn’t have had the opportunity at the end of the first, we would have started the second on a power play, he was the one, you know, Nino [Niederreiter] had a breakaway and he made a great play defending. It had a definite, definite impact on the game. and if you can score on a 5-on-3, then all of a sudden you’re playing with the lead, you’re not chasing the game. it’s different tactics by them and everything else, so from that standpoint, it impacted the game greatly.”
Following the game, Morrissey said it was never his intention to injure Staal.
“I watched the video afterward, and we’re battling in front of the net on the penalty kill, and I’m actually looking at the puck on the wall, trying to box him out,” Morrissey said. “I got my stick up too high on him. It was a complete accident. I would never try to do that. I was glad he was able to come back and play the rest of the game.”
On Wednesday, Jets head coach Paul Maurice said he would have been surprised if Morrissey received a suspension.
“I’m not surprised there’s a hearing,” Maurice said. “You guys have been running it for a day and a half, pretty hard. There’s a penalty there and very most you might look at a fine. Based on what I’ve seen for (plays that) were either suspended or fined for a stick that didn’t hit the head, and some of these others have, there’s no intent. There’s a penalty. They missed it.
“I think they’re nervous about putting a team five-on-three because it happened to us the game before and there shouldn’t have been a penalty call and they’re aware of that. There’s no intent.
“I don’t come out and complain about the refereeing. Things get missed. We clearly felt there was intent on the (Tyler) Myers hit, there was absolutely, in my mind, intent on the hit on (Jacob) Trouba hit from (Marcus) Foligno. I know you all saw it when you weren’t looking at your phones, the (Nino) Niederreiter headbutt to (Ben) Chiarot.
Maurice backed Morrissey, suggesting there was no intent to injure on the play.
“There’s no intent on this. It got played,” Maurice said. “You’ve got a real smart coach on the other bench who has all the focus on that and not on the game now. Why wouldn’t you? Morrissey is a great defenceman for us. If you had a chance to get him out, you’d play it as hard as you could, so I don’t have any problem with that.
“There’s a penalty there and at very most you might look at a fine but thankfully Eric Staal played the rest of the game, played hard, played well, finished all of his checks, played with an edge. So he certainly was able to come back and that’s a good thing.”
Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck