For the Calgary Flames to hold onto third place in the Pacific Division and ward off the Los Angeles Kings for a playoff spot, they're going to need all their stars in the lineup. That's why it was a scary sight when young center Sean Monahan was knocked to his knees following a hit to the head from Dallas Stars winger Brett Ritchie.
In the waning moments of the second period, Monahan and Ritchie came together towards a loose puck in the neutral zone. Ritchie reached the puck first, chipped it with one hand back to the Stars defensemen and then delivered an elbow/punch/butt end to the head of Monahan. Courtesy of Sportsnet, you can check out the play below:
Luckily for Calgary, Monahan wasn't severely injured on the play and would remain in the game, while Ritchie was assessed a two-minute minor for high sticking.
The case for suspending Ritchie: More than anything, what will work against Ritchie is that he delivers the hit without hitting any other part of Monahan's body. The head is absolutely the principle point of contact and it doesn't appear that Ritchie intended to hit anything but Monahan's head. The two-minute minor isn't a severe penalty for Ritchie's actions, either, and as a low-minute guy on the Stars, the Department of Player Safety can take him out of Dallas' lineup for a few games without hurting the Stars' ability to fight for the playoffs.
The case against suspending Ritchie: Monahan wasn't injured on the play, which is something the Department of Player Safety takes into account on each potentially suspendable infraction. In addition, Ritchie has no suspension history, so there will be no need to nail him as a repeat offender. If the Department of Player Safety rules this an accidental butt end, precedent was set just two days ago when New York Rangers winger Tanner Glass was fined $3,987 for bloodying Boston Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid.
Without an injury to Monahan, it's going to be tougher to justify a suspension for Ritchie, but that it's a high hit with nothing else targeted and that Ritchie catches Monahan with a fist and/or butt end right to the head makes it one of the plays the league will certainly review.