The NHL will not suspend a player for hurting his own teammate for the first time in league history, but there’s a pretty good chance that if Alex Ovechkin’s knee injury doesn’t keep him out of the Washington Capitals lineup, the NHL will.
In what could be described as an eventful night in the NHL, for the wrong reasons, Ovechkin went knee-on-knee with Tim Gleason of the Carolina Hurricanes and received a major penalty for kneeing and a game misconduct. Although the NHL rulebook does not specifically stipulate a fine or suspension for kneeing, supplementary discipline can be applied at the discretion of the commissioner.
And you’d have to think that’s exactly what will happen, given that Georges Laraque of the Montreal Canadiens recently received a five-game suspension for his knee-on-knee hit that injured Detroit Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall. One big difference was that Gleason came back to play the rest of the game (Kronwall’s out for at least a month), while Ovechkin looked to take the worse of the hit, leaving the game and not returning.
Ovechkin also received a major penalty and game misconduct for boarding last week when he drilled Patrick Kaleta of the Buffalo Sabres head-first into the boards. Ovechkin did not receive supplementary discipline for that hit, but likely won’t be that lucky this time around.
Although NHL vice-president and director of hockey operations Colin Campbell would not say whether Ovechkin will face a hearing, he did say that Florida Panthers defenseman Keith Ballard will not be suspended for hitting his own goalie, Tomas Vokoun, with a two-handed baseball swing in the Panthers 3-2 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers.
“It will be on every sports highlight show for the next week,” Campbell said. “If that’s not enough of a punishment…”
It would be odd for the league to discipline Ballard for what he did, but there is no doubt it was extremely reckless and there is latitude for the commissioner to suspend a player for actions detrimental to the game. After the Thrashers scored their second goal of the game, Ballard went to slash the goalpost in frustration, but instead caught Vokoun on the side of the head, resulting in Vokoun having to be carried off on a stretcher.
Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, who saw the slash for the first time shortly after leading his team to a 3-0 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs Monday night, said he thinks Ballard’s actions don’t deserve a suspension.
“I don’t know about a suspension,” Miller said, “but you’d like to think the guys on your team, when they show anger, they’re going to be cognizant of what’s around them. That’s just being angry and being blind to what’s around you. That’s no way to handle your emotions on the ice. I don’t think a suspension is in order. The team can handle it internally. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen anything like that.”
Miller, meanwhile, played a terrific game, stopping 38 shots against the Leafs. That he did it in front of Team USA GM Brian Burke and coach Ron Wilson was not really something in which he was placing a lot of importance. Miller remains the odds-on favorite to be the No. 1 goalie for USA at the Olympics and performances such as those on Monday night will do nothing to hurt his standing.
“For me, I have a job to do and I just want to go out and do it the best I can,” Miller said. “If Burke’s here that’s great. I’m glad I can play well in this rink, but he’s not skating against me. I don’t know how many different ways I can say it – I try not to focus on it and I really have done a good job of not bringing it to the forefront of my thought process.”
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear Wednesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell’s Cuts, appears Mondays.
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