NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Bobby Ryan doesn’t agree with the NHL suspending him two games for stomping on Predators defenceman Jonathan Blum’s foot, and the Anaheim star isn’t sure how he’ll handle watching Games 3 and 4 in Music City from the press box.
“I mean I’ve never gone through anything like this, and it still hasn’t sunk in,” Ryan said Saturday shortly after hearing about his suspension.
“Tomorrow when I’m watching guys leave for the rink and I’m sitting around not being able to participate and watching from the press box is going to be difficult. This time of year you need your guys to be in the lineup … It’s going to be tough to watch, tough to swallow for the next couple of days here.”
The NHL suspended Ryan for two games, meaning one-third of the Ducks’ top line will miss Games 3 and 4 in Nashville.
Ryan was caught by TV cameras using his left foot to stomp on Blum’s skate while they battled for the puck against the boards with 3:25 left in Anaheim’s 5-3 victory Friday night that evened the opening playoff series. Ryan clinched the victory with an empty-net goal in the final minute.
Footage spread quickly on YouTube, and a hearing was held Saturday while the Ducks skated in Nashville. Ryan caught a cab from the team hotel and joined the Ducks’ practice. He heard the news during a drill and said he just raised his foot a little high when trying to kick the puck away from Blum.
“Oh, I don’t agree with it. Not much to say,” Ryan said. “Obviously, came down right on top of his foot. I saw it 10-15 times today and watched it before the meeting. Don’t see a two-game suspension, but it is what it is and it’s his call. I’ll be a good teammate and move forward.”
The NHL obviously disagreed with Ryan’s defence.
“The actions by Ryan were both reckless and dangerous,” said Colin Campbell, the league’s disciplinarian. “While it was fortunate there was no injury to Blum on the play, the act of using your skate in this manner is unacceptable.”
Blum credited not being hurt to wearing a pair of new skates but said after practice Saturday he knew immediately that his foot had been stepped on.
“It’s a pretty strong skate still. I was pretty lucky it didn’t get it cut through,” Blum said.
The Predators and Ducks skated Saturday on adjacent rinks at Centennial Sportsplex, with Nashville finishing up maybe 20 minutes before Anaheim because the band Sugarland had the Bridgestone Arena for a concert. Nashville coach Barry Trotz hadn’t heard the NHL’s decision when he spoke but clearly didn’t like what Ryan did, calling the move a cardinal sin in hockey.
“The only intent is to hurt someone and that’s what we’re trying to get out of the game,” Trotz said. “He’s one heck of a player. There’s no question that I’d love to have Bobby Ryan on my team, but I think you know he did wrong on that one. There’s no place in the game. You talk to any player. It’s dangerous, and it’s a cardinal sin in the game of hockey.”
This means one of the NHL’s most offensive lines will be missing the forward who scored two goals in helping Anaheim even the series before heading to Nashville for Game 3 on Sunday. Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said he will fill in with someone, possibly Brad Winchester or Matt Beleskey who have been skating on the Ducks’ youth line.
Carlyle said he was a little surprised by the number of games but that it was tough to defend because Ryan did it. He said the Ducks will live with the NHL’s decision if that’s the price such an action deserves. But Carlyle defended his forward.
“That’s not Bobby Ryan’s style. This is a first time offence if anything, and … I’m surprised. I didn’t even see it until after the game, was surprised to see what happened during the game. There’s no place for that,” Carlyle said.
The NHL suspended Chris Pronger in March 2008 for eight games when the All-Star defenceman was with the Ducks after he stomped on Vancouver centre Ryan Kesler’s leg.
Ryan’s suspension gives the Predators a chance to take control of the series. They are 3-0 when playing Game 3 on home ice with wins over Detroit in 2004 and 2008 and a year ago against Chicago. This is a team that went 24-9-8 in Nashville, joining Vancouver and Washington as the only teams to have fewer than 10 regulation losses at home this season.
Nashville also went 10-2-1 in their final 15 home games.
“We’re just excited to be back home in front of the home fans (Sunday) night,” Nashville defenceman Shane O’Brien said. “They’ve been so good for us down the stretch. They’ve been so loud and so passionate.”
The crowd won’t help if the Predators don’t stop hurting themselves. Three of the six goals by the Ducks through the first two games came on the man advantage, two skating 5-on-3.
Trotz said he has just one message for his team.
“Just stay out of the box,” Trotz said.