The Columbus Blue Jackets have a three-day break before their next game, but that layoff could be even longer for defenseman Dalton Prout.
In a Sunday afternoon tilt between the Blue Jackets and Lightning, Prout earned himself a two-minute minor for roughing and 10-minute misconduct for a punch he delivered to Tampa Bay winger Nikita Kucherov, but that might not have been enough punishment for the 25-year-old rearguard, especially considering Kucherov had to leave the game.
The punch from Prout to Kucherov came in the second period after a scrum that started when Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno knocked down Lightning netminder Ben Bishop. Tampa Bay defenseman Andrej Sustr started a scrum with Foligno, Kucherov got involved and Prout came all the way in from the blueline to get into the mix:
— Bill Short (@LakesideFurCat) March 13, 2016
Kucherov did take one additional shift after his minor penalty was up, but that was only a 53-second shift that began with six minutes remaining in the second period. Once he left the ice following that shift, Kucherov didn’t return and the Lightning reported he was being evaluated, and Lightning coach Jon Cooper told the Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith post-game that Kucherov’s injury isn’t expected to be a long-term ailment, but would have to wait for further evaluation.
As for Prout, the DOPS is already looking at the incident. According to The Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline, the league is taking “a closer look,” as they do with many questionable or borderline plays each night.
Prout has never been suspended or fined, but it’s hard to defend him throwing a punch at an unsuspecting player. The precedent for an incident such as Prout and Kucherov’s may have been set earlier this season, too. Los Angeles Kings winger Milan Lucic was handed a one-game ban in late-January for throwing a punch on Arizona Coyotes defenseman Kevin Connauton, who was ruled to have “no reason to believe” Lucic would punch him. If that’s any indication of what we can expect for Prout, he could end up with nearly an entire week off.
The DOPS will have time to decide whether or not they wish to set up a hearing for Prout given that the Blue Jackets aren’t in action again until Thursday. If he does end up missing a game due to suspension, Prout will have nearly a week out of action.