RALEIGH, N.C. – Carolina Hurricanes forward Scott Walker will not be suspended but was fined US$2,500 by the NHL on Monday for throwing a punch that may have broken a bone in Boston defenceman Aaron Ward’s face.
Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford told The Associated Press that the automatic suspension given to Walker was rescinded during a hearing with league disciplinarian Colin Campbell.
It was ruled the hit was not a “sucker punch.”
“Based on what was said on the ice as I was dropping my gloves, it was my understanding that I was engaged in an altercation,” Walker said in a statement issued by the team.
Tempers flared in the final minutes of Boston’s 4-0 victory Sunday in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals when Ward and Carolina’s Matt Cullen began shoving in front of the Bruins’ net.
Walker skated in and hit Ward with a right cross that knocked the defenceman to the ice, and was given a misconduct, a fighting major and an instigator penalty with 2:47 remaining.
Boston coach Claude Julien said after the game that team doctors feared Ward had a broken orbital bone. He was being re-evaluated Monday.
“In reviewing what I saw, I just didn’t like what happened. … I just don’t think there was any need for that,” Julien said after practice in Wilmington, Mass.
“He sucker-punched him once coming into the scrum when (Ward) was involved with another player. And then he dropped his gloves and sucker-punched him.
“I don’t care what people say about, ‘Ward should’ve protected himself.’ He had no intention of getting involved,” he added. “We asked our guys to stay composed and not fall into that trap, and he just did that.
“A guy with Walker’s experience should know better than to sucker-punch a guy.”
The Bruins issued a statement Monday responding to the lack of suspension for Walker.
“We respectfully disagree with the NHL’s ruling to rescind the automatic suspension to Scott Walker, but we will abide by the league’s ruling,” the team said.
Things were chippy throughout a physical game in which the teams combined for 29 penalties and 83 penalty minutes.
That’s not counting Jussi Jokinen’s second-period slash to Zdeno Chara that briefly sent the Boston captain to the locker room. Jokinen was not penalized.
Rutherford said the incident was “clearly brought on by them,” saying he felt the Hurricanes had taken shots from Boston players throughout the series, which Carolina leads 3-2.
He isn’t worried about the possibility of the Bruins retaliating against Walker during Game 6 Tuesday night.
“If that’s the way the game’s going to be played, that’s the way we’ll play the game,” he said.