NHL Department of Player Safety

Blues’ Sundqvist to face hearing after boarding Bruins’ Grzelcyk

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(UPDATE: Sundqvist has been suspended for Game 3.)

Oskar Sundqvist may have only received a minor penalty for a crushing hit from behind that forced Matt Grzelcyk from Game 2, but he’ll now have to answer to the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.

Sundqvist’s first-period transgression has earned him a hearing on Thursday with George Parros and Co.

You can watch the video above, but essentially Sundqvist caught Grzelcyk from behind, and what appeared to be in the head, behind the Boston net late in the opening frame. The debate will rage over the awkwardness of the hit and whether Sundqvist could have done much when Grzelcyk appeared to move right before the check occurred.

Grzelcyk didn’t return to the game as the Bruins played the final two periods and overtime with five defensemen. Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said Grzelcyk was taken to hospital to get further tests and that he was still waiting for an update regarding his defenseman.

Sundqvist no-commented on the play following the game.

Other’s didn’t hold back.

Bruins forward and former Blues captain made no bones about what he thought the hit deserved after the game.

“I don’t think that’s a hit we want in our game,” Backes said. “It’s from behind, elevated, into his head, into the glass. If that’s a two-minute penalty, I think there’s going to be a shortage of defensemen in this series by the end of it.

“That’s in somebody else’s hands. That’s something I think if I’m making that hit, I’m probably watching from the bleachers for a few, but we’ll see what happens with their player.”

Cassidy lamented the loss of Grzelcyk.

“Losing the 16 minutes of [Grzelcyk’s] time, good puck mover, guy that can break down a forecheck when he’s on, that was clearly a strength of theirs tonight and a weakness of ours, breaking the pucks out,” Cassidy said. “That’s where we missed him the most, I felt like. Getting back on pucks. He’s pretty good at a quick-escape move, a pretty clean pass, get our forwards moving through the neutral zone, which is a strength of our game. We lost some of that element and I think it showed.”

The Bruins could turn to John Moore, who came in for Zdeno Chara in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final, or Steven Kampfer. Cassidy said he’s not worried about replacements if they do have to come in.

“They’ve played in the playoffs, helped us win games,” he said.

Blues-Bruins Game 3 is Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET from Enterprise Center on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app.


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

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

Sportsnet
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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