The Bruins-Maple Leafs first-round series is in its infancy, but there’s been no shortage of drama. On Friday, the NHL Department of Player Safety weighed in on one of the incidents of the Bruins’ 5-1 victory.
After his late and unnecessary hit on a falling Tommy Wingels in the third period, the league handed out a three-game suspension to Nazem Kadri. The Leafs forward is eligible to return in Game 5 (if necessary).
Kadri, who thought he was coming to the aid of Mitch Marner after an apparent high hit from Wingels, received a five-minute major for charging and a game misconduct.
“Well, initially I just thought he made contact with Mitchy’s [Mitchell Marner] head to start, and I didn’t see a call there. He was turning up the wall, so I was coming into the hit, and then he ended up falling,” Kadri said about the events that led to his ejection from Game 1.
“It happened pretty quick, and I think he was reaching for the puck. I haven’t really watched it yet, but I don’t think I stuck my leg out or my arm out, or whatever the case is, but it’s in the hands of the NHL at this point.”
Nazem Kadri back to the penalty box for this hit on Tommy Wingels. This one is definitely bad, possibly even supplemental bad. pic.twitter.com/tZ3HI1SBNY
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) April 13, 2018
Those postgame comments might have foreshadowed Kadri’s argument with Player Safety during Friday’s hearing. The league, however, didn’t buy his case.
“While we acknowledge that Wingels makes contact with Marner moments before, players are never permitted to retaliate in an illegal fashion,” the league’s Player Safety Department said in their official video statement.
“It is important to note that Kadri is in control of this hit at all times. While Wingels falling might have been unanticipated, Kadri has enough time to realize that Wingels is on his knees and in a defenseless position before committing the hit. Instead of avoiding or minimizing this hit, Kadri drives his hit into Wingels’ upper-body with enough force to cause Wingels to collide dangerously with the boards, and cause himself to lift off the ice upon impact.”
Wingels, who left the game in the third period, was not on the ice during Friday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena. The former Blackhawks forward is questionable for Saturday according to head coach Bruce Cassidy.
With Riley Nash unlikely to go for Game 2, rookie Ryan Donato will likely skate in his first playoff contest Saturday night. The former Harvard standout skated on the third line with David Backes and Noel Acciari, while Danton Heinen slid in Wingels’ spot on the fourth line with Tim Schaller and Sean Kuraly during Friday’s on-ice session in Brighton.