Victor Hedman rocks Kyle Clifford with high elbow

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman stepped up on Los Angeles Kings winger Kyle Clifford Sunday night and caught him with a questionable hit. Hedman’s elbow came up as the two players collided and sent Clifford to the ice. Hedman was whistled for elbowing, and might be lucky if no suspension comes his way.

Even with his massive frame, Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman is far from the most physical blueliner in the league. The 6-foot-6, 230-pound rearguard has registered only 17 hits this season in 27 games, and he’s more known for his quick stick work to strip opposing players of the puck. Sunday night, however, he stepped and rocked Los Angeles Kings winger Kyle Clifford. One problem, though: it was a questionable hit.

Clifford collected a puck in the Kings’ zone midway through the third period and chose to skate it to center before dumping it into the Lightning end. While skating through the neutral zone, he was pressured by Tampa Bay’s Anton Stralman at the same time as Hedman stepped up to deliver a hit. The result was an elbow that caught Clifford square in the face:

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If Hedman would have kept his arm tucked, that would have been a clean, hard open-ice check. Instead, he was whistled for elbowing and it’d be shocking if the NHL’s Department of Player Safety didn’t at least take a second look at the hit.

Hedman doesn’t have a reputation as a dirty player and the league has never fined or suspended him. And as someone who has had concussion issues in the past, it’s hard to imagine Hedman would target an opponent’s head and risk concussing another player.

Clifford appeared fine and remained in the game, but took just one shift for the remainder of the contest.