NHL Department of Player Safety

Kucherov handed one-game ban for boarding, misses Game 3

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Already reeling from being down 2-0 in a series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Tampa Bay Lightning will have to deal with their “five-alarm fire” without their best man equipped to douse the flames.

Nikita Kucherov, the NHL’s leading point producer during the regular season, is banned from Game 3 of the Eastern Conference First Round series on Sunday.

Kucherov lost his cool late in a 5-1 loss to the Blue Jackets on Friday, slashing Blue Jackets’ Markus Nutivaara and then, when he was on his knees in a vulnerable spot, drilling him into the half boards.

Kucherov was given two for tripping, a five-minute major for boarding and assessed a game misconduct on the play.

The league moved swiftly on this one after announcing the hearing late Friday.

George Parros, head of the NHL’s Department of Player Safety, said while the hit isn’t excessively violent in nature, there are a number of other factors that play into it meriting supplemental discipline.

“Kucherov is control of this play at all times,” Parros said in the department’s suspension video. “This is not a play where Nutivaara falls to the ice suddenly or unexpectedly in a way that leaves Kucherov little time to react.”

Parros said the reason Nutivaara was on the ice in the first place was because of the trip Kucherov put on him prior to the hit, leaving the Blue Jackets defenseman in a defenseless position.

“Kucherov takes advantage of this situation to deliver a dangerous hit on a player in an exposed, defenseless position,” Parros said.

And above all this, Parros said that the department believes the incident falls under Article 18.2 of the NHL’s collective bargain agreement when it comes to “message send,” where an incident occurs late in the game, with a lopsided score and/or from prior events in the game.

“While we understand that frustration often occurs at the end of a game, dangerous or retaliatory plays delivered in the final minutes of a playoff game will be viewed in context and punished accordingly,” Parros said.

The Lightning are already in big trouble. They’ve been outplayed badly over the first two games and none of their big names — and there are a lot of them — are producing anything. They badly needed Kucherov to show up in Game 3 after having now points in the first two games.

It’s dire in Tampa, given the lack of point production.
• Nikita Kucherov – 0 points
Steven Stamkos – 0 points
Brayden Point – 0 points

Each of those guys had 40 or more goals this season and at least 90 points.

Three sides of the milk carton are already taken up, and you could easily fill up the fourth with others on the team. Hell, you might need multiple milk cartons just to address all those who are MIA.

With Victor Hedman’s status in question, the Lightning could be running with without last year’s Norris winner and this year’s likely Hart recipient.

Still, they are hopeful.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Sabres’ Eichel, Flyers’ Voracek facing hearings after Saturday hits

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The NHL’s Department of Player Safety will be busy on Sunday.

Forwards Jack Eichel of the Buffalo Sabres and Jakub Voracek of the Philadelphia Flyers will be asked to explain their actions in their respective games on Saturday after two massive hits.

Eichel’s came in the second period of a 3-0 loss to the Colorado Avalanche. He and Carl Soderberg were chasing down a loss puck in the neutral zone when Eichel took his shoulder and laid it square into Soderberg’s chin, forcing the latter to leave the game temporarily.

Eichel was given a two-minute minor for an illegal check to the head on the play, which can be seen here around the one-minute mark:

Eichel had enough, he admitted after the game.

Nikita Zadorov drilled him in the first period (a hit you can see from the beginning of the above video) after an offside whistle had already been blown.

“He hits me after they (bleeping), excuse my language, blow the whistle,” Eichel told the Buffalo News following in the game. “That’s whatever.

“I thought he was just reaching. I don’t know. I’d have to look at it, to be honest with you. I’m trying to protect myself. It’s a physical game. I think he’s going to deliver a hit to me.

“It seems like they were taking runs a little bit at times. If I’m going to be at the forefront of it, I might as well push back a little bit. I’ve got to protect myself.”

Eichel has never been suspended.

Meanwhile, Voracek will have to answer for this bit of interference he threw on New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk in their game on Saturday.

In a 5-1 game for the Flyers, Boychuk was pinching in to try and snag a loose puck heading Voracek’s way. Instead, Voracek saw Boychuk coming and dropped him with hit, forcing Boychuk from the game and resulting in a five-minute major for interference.

You can be the judge here:

Voracek was far from pleased with the call following the game.

“The explanation I got was if I hit him in the head, it would be a game [misconduct],” he told NBC Sports Philadelphia. “I don’t know why I got five. I try to protect myself, to be honest, maybe the puck was a little further than I thought — I thought the puck was close to me.

“It’s a tough hit. You know, he’s getting off the ice, he’s pointing at me like it’s a WrestleMania or something. Pointing at me like it’s a WrestleMania. Come on, it’s a hockey game. … He’s the guy that was sucker-punching 19-year-old Nolan Patrick last year in the end of a game. He’s going to do that? Give me a break.”

Voracek, like Eichel, has no history.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Red Wings’ Kronwall delivers devastating, questionable hit on Islanders’ Lee

Sportsnet
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No one walks the clean hit/dirty hit tightrope like Niklas Kronwall.

There are several montages on YouTube of Kronwall Kronwalling opponents. Some of them are hard but clean hits. Others are, well, questionable at best and there’s another one to add to that column from Saturday night.

With the Detroit Red Wings up 2-0 in the first period, Kronwall lined up Anders Lee of the New York Islanders, who was picking up a loose puck on along the boards in the neutral zone. Like many of Kronwall’s hits, it was a devastating thump.

Here’s the hit:

Lee’s head appears to be the principal point of contact and he was forced to leave the game.

UPDATE: Lee did not come out to start the second period but returned later in the frame

The comments section is going to be full of, ‘Lee needs to keep his head up.’

That is true. The player has a responsibility to protect himself.

But what is also true is this: Just because a guy’s head is down doesn’t mean there’s free rein to pulverize his brain.

Kronwall had some time to change how he was going to hit Lee, either the angle or the magnitude of the force of it.

Josh Bailey went for retribution later in the period, first getting a slew foot in on Kronwall and then fighting Dylan Larkin.

Lee leads the Islanders with 11 goals and is tied with Josh Bailey for the most points with 22.

Time will tell, but you have to imagine that George Parros and the Department of Player Safety will give this one a long look.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Golden Knights’ Reaves ejected after blindside hit on Capitals’ Wilson

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(UPDATE: Reaves will not receive any supplemental discipline from the NHL.)

Yes, you read that right.

Vegas Golden Knights forward Ryan Reaves did his best Tom Wilson impression in front of the man himself against the Washington Capitals on Tuesday. And the result was much the same.

Reaves drilled Wilson as Wilson was looking the other way following a pass attempt. The hit from Reaves sent Wilson’s helmet flying in the air. Wilson hit the ice hard and appeared to hit his head on the way down.

NBC Sports Washington has the video here:

Reaves was assessed a five-minute major for interference and handed a game misconduct on top of it. He’s also likely going to be hearing from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety over the next couple of days.

Wilson needed to be helped off and was ruled out for the rest of the game with an upper-body injury.

Wilson was involved in a controversial hit last week after he laid a blindside hit of his own on New Jersey Devils forward Brett Seney. Wilson was ejected from the game but was not subject to further discipline.

Wilson has been suspended four times in the past 15 months.

Reaves and Wilson already had a thing going in the game.

In the clip below, Reaves steps into the path of an oncoming Wilson and then proceeds to laugh in his face, this after drilling Wilson seconds earlier.

Wilson took Reaves down in the first period with a big hit of his own.

Still a lot of hate between these two teams and it’s safe to say that Reaves and Wilson haven’t seen the last of each other.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

NHL fines Canucks’ Roussel for biting Vlasic

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Antoine Roussel has been fined $5,000, the maximum allowed under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, for chomping on the hand of Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

The incident happened late in the third period with Roussel’s Vancouver Canucks down 4-0 to the Vlasic’s San Jose Sharks.

Vlasic and Roussel were engaged in a scuffle after play had stopped, with the former getting his hand in the face of latter. Roussel, seemingly displeased (or hungry), lashed out with his teeth.

The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz sent out a tweet following the game saying Vlasic bit him and said Vlasic showed him the bit marks.

Here’s the footage of the incident:

Roussel was penalized for his involvement in the fracas as he was given two minutes for roughing, another two for cross-checking and a 10-minute misconduct.

It’s the not the first time a Canucks player has tried to feast on another player’s hand.

If you go back to Game 1 of 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, you’ll remember a certain Alex Burrows chomp on Patrice Bergeron.

Burrows was neither fined nor suspended for the incident, with officials saying there was no conclusive evidence that Burrows intentionally tried to chow down.

Of course, that didn’t stop Bruins players from trying to entice Burrows to take another bite later in the series.

Biting isn’t exactly a foreign concept in the NHL.

In the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, Victor Hedman alleged that Andrew Shaw bit him on his stomach during a scrum. Hedman was shown on the bench after the melee lifting up his jersey to show the mark on his torso to the trainer.

There was no punishment for Shaw even as he didn’t deny doing the deed.

In a game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs, now-Vegas Golden Knights forward Max Pacioretty appeared to be bitten by then-Maple Leafs forward Mikhail Grabovski after the Pacioretty wrapped his arm around Grabovski’s face in a scrum after a whistle.

Grabovski had a phone hearing for the incident but the DoPS couldn’t determine if a bite had occurred. He was not fined nor suspended for the incident.

Grabovski later admitted that he did, indeed, bite Pacioretty.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck