NEW YORK, N.Y. – The revolving door of suspensions will spin again Thursday in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final.
Rangers defenceman John Moore will start a two-game suspension for an illegal check to the head of Montreal forward Dale Weise in Game 5 Tuesday. Canadiens agitator Brandon Prust returns from his two-game ban for breaking Derek Stepan’s jaw in Game 3.
Daniel Carcillo, meanwhile, will meet commissioner Gary Bettman on Friday to appeal his 10-game suspension for jostling a linesman in the aftermath of the Prust hit.
The Moore ban was the latest shoe to drop in a drama-filled Eastern final, which the Rangers lead three games to two despite losing 7-4 Tuesday.
The New York defenceman was given a major penalty and ejected from the game at Montreal’s Bell Centre when, at 10:41 of the third period, he nailed Weise with a blindside open-ice hit that was almost identical to Prust’s unpenalized hit on Stepan.
Weise’s helmet was knocked off and he was wobbly when he got up, with teammate P.K. Subban grabbing him in a bear hug for support.
He left for treatment but returned to the bench late in the period.
There was no immediate word on Weise’s condition. Asked Wednesday how his player was, Montreal coach Michel Therrien told reporters after an optional practice: “I didn’t see him this morning.”
But in its video explaining its ruling, the NHL department of player safety said Weise had “suffered an injury a result of the hit.” It did not elaborate.
The video notes that, unlike the Stepan check, the Moore hit was not late. But it also says Moore drove upwards when he hit Weise, making the forward’s head the primary point of contact. The league said that Weise made no sudden movements prior to the hit, so the onus was on Moore to avoid contact with Weise’s head.
Prior to the NHL’s ruling, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault had argued that any extra discipline against Moore for the hit was unnecessary.
“It doesn’t meet the league standard as far as a late hit,” Vigneault told reporters at a Wednesday morning availability in Montreal. “It was a hit that Johnny caught him a little high in the chest, (the) player didn’t see it coming.
“It probably warrants the penalty that was given on the ice. Other than that, I don’t see what else it could warrant, but I’ve been surprised before.”
Moore plays on New York’s third defensive pairing with Kevin Klein while Stepan centres Rick Nash and Chris Kreider in one of the Rangers’ top lines. Prust plays on the Habs’ fourth line while Weise was elevated to the third line during the playoffs.
Vigneault said the Moore and Prust cases were different.
“Well, the player didn’t see him coming, obviously, but the guy (Weise) was admiring his pass a little bit at the same time,” he said. “Unfortunately, it was a hit and because of the force of the hit, the head seemed to snap back a little bit. But as far as what I know about league standards and from what I heard from the Prust hit where the dynamics of the hit changed because Stepan was hurt, I don’t see that at this time right now.”
Stepan underwent surgery to repair his jaw but the Rangers’ centre returned to action Tuesday and scored two goals while wearing a chin guard.
Montreal forward Daniel Briere, at a late-afternoon availability at the team’s Manhattan hotel, did see the plays as similar.
“I think it’s fair,” he said of the Moore ban. “Brandon paid the price for it and obviously if you talk to us we’re probably thinking (it should be) more. You talk to the Rangers, they were thinking less, obviously. That’s just the way it is. I guess it’s kind of a middle ground.
“I think the biggest thing is seeing that Dale is OK. That’s what matters the most for us.”
Added Canadiens captain Brian Gionta: “It’s kind of what I would have thought would have happened. They’re very similar plays and I guess the precedent was set on Prust’s hit. So it’s the NHL’s decision. It looks very similar.”