The NHL’s Department of Player Safety had a busy day Friday, doling out a fine to New Jersey Devils center Stephen Gionta and suspension to Dallas Stars defenseman Jason Demers. They could have more work to do Saturday depending on their take on a questionable hit by Calgary Flames center Joe Colborne.
In the first period of Friday’s game between Calgary and the visiting Red Wings, Detroit rookie winger Dylan Larkin went to move the puck up ice just as the frame was drawing to a close. Larkin moved the puck and was watching his pass go up ice when Colborne, approaching from Larkin’s left, came in with a high elbow that caught Larkin in the back of the head:
The referees saw the hit by Colborne and the Flames pivot was handed a two-minute minor for cross-checking. The two teams exchanged a few unpleasantries and then headed to the dressing room.
The case for suspending Colborne: Forget principle point of contact, there was no point of contact other than Larkin’s head. Colborne also brings his arms up and out to extend into Larkin, which could have also been an elbowing minor. The rookie looked a bit wobbly following the play, but did remain in the game, skating 9:39 in the rest of the contest. He did manage only five shifts in the entire second period, however.
The case against suspending Colborne: Larkin remained in the game, which is the first sign Colborne might be free of any extra discipline. The referees deemed Colborne’s check was only worth a two-minute minor. Worth noting is that when approached by Colborne, Larkin’s body dips slightly to the right and away from the check. The change in angle could be enough for the NHL’s Department of Player Safety to put the onus on Larkin for putting himself in a vulnerable position.
The Flames won’t be in action again until Sunday when they head to New York to face the Rangers, but Colborne should know if he’ll be facing any extra punishment Saturday. Because Larkin wasn’t injured on the play, it seems unlikely Colborne will find himself sitting on the sidelines. The safe bet says no suspension.