Los Angeles’ Milan Lucic rarely, if ever, backs down from a confrontation, and his willingness to engage with opponents saw him booted from Saturday’s game against Arizona after he delivered a punch to Coyotes blueliner Kevin Connauton.
Midway through the third period of Saturday’s game, Lucic was slashed by Connauton on the left hand, and it had the Kings winger seeing red. Lucic immediately went after Connauton and threw a right hand that sent the defenseman falling to the ice:
As soon as Lucic knocks Connauton down, referee Brad Meier made the signal to eject Lucic from the contest. You can see Lucic yelling at Meier following the ejection, and it appears Lucic is yelling his wrist was broken from Connauton’s slash. Post-game, Lucic said x-rays from the slash came back negative, but he did say he was worried that his wrist was broken.
“Well my whole hand went numb,” Lucic told LAKingsInsider’s Jon Rosen. “I truly thought of the worst because I couldn’t feel my hand after the slash like that, and that’s the way I reacted the way that I did.”
Broken wrist or not, it seemed like a no-brainer to send Lucic out of the game given the way Connauton his the ice, but Lucic said post-game that ejections have become a pattern throughout his career when Meier’s officiating.
“I mean, if I don’t react, I don’t think he even calls a penalty,” Lucic told Rosen. “Same guy – Brad Meier. I think this is the fourth time he’s kicked me out of a game. It’s always the same thing with him. It as if guys can take liberties on me and it’s not a penalty. If I do something, then I’m automatically kicked out of the game. It’s just unfortunate that it is that way with him, and I’ve just got to move on and not get frustrated by the referees in the game.”
Lucic missed the final 13:05 of the contest, which the Kings dropped 3-2 to the Coyotes, and he could be out even longer: the NHL's Department of Player Safety announced Sunday morning that Lucic will have a hearing for "roughing/sucker punch(ing)" Connauton. A potential suspension might not be Lucic's only punishment, though, as the league has punished players for speaking out about referees before.
In May 2015, Canucks winger Brandon Prust, then with the Canadiens, was fined $5,000 for comments about referee Brad Watson, and Canucks winger Alexandre Burrows was fined $2,500 in January 2010 for comments about referee Stephane Auger.
UPDATE: The NHL's Department of Player Safety announced Sunday that Lucic has been suspended one game for his punch to the head of Connauton.
"This is not a situation in which two or more players are squaring off in confrontation," Patrick Burke, director of Player Safety, said in the video. "In those situations it may be reasonable for a players to expect confrontation a confrontation to escalate, and possibly escalate quickly. With rare exceptions, any punches thrown in those situations can be adequately penalized by the on-ice officials. In this situation, Connauton has no reason to believe a punch may be thrown by Lucic."
Burke added that Connauton had no way to defend himself, the Department of Player Safety cited Lucic's history in the suspension video.
The one-game ban will cost Lucic $32,258.06, all of which will go to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.