DETROIT — The Detroit Red Wings aren’t just in a 2-1 hole in a Western Conference quarterfinal series. Now, they’ll be without a key cog on their top line for the next two games against the Anaheim Ducks.
The NHL announced Sunday that it has suspended Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader for two games, the result of a dangerous hit by Abdelkader that leveled Ducks defenseman Toni Lydman in the second period of Saturday’s 4-0 loss to the Ducks.
Abdelkader received a game misconduct and a five-minute major for charging for the play and was suspended a day later. Abdelkader, who has a goal and leads the Red Wings with 11 shots in three playoff games, will sit out today’s Game 4 at Joe Louis Arena and Wednesday’s Game 5 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.
Brendan Shanahan, the NHL’s senior vice president of player safety and hockey operations, explained the basis for the suspension in a video posted Sunday on NHL.com.
“Abdelkader elevates at contact, turning what could have been a hard body check into a high, violent check with significant contact to the head that caused an injury,” Shanahan said, citing Rule 42, which clarifies charging. “In summary, this was charging. Lydman suffered an injury on the play.”
After Saturday’s loss, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock refused to speculate on any punishment that the NHL’s department of player safety could mete. But he said this much of Abdelkader’s hit:
“I didn’t think he was up,” Babcock said. “I didn’t think his arms were up or anything. I think he hit him on his shoulder. We’ll have to see what they decide.”
Babcock also elaborated on what kind of physical presence Abdelkader has provided on Detroit’s top line with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.
“We don’t have anybody with any kind of weight to play there,” Babcock said. “That’s the bottom line.
“We’re kind of a one-line team. When you’re like us and you lose people, it’s a bigger deal.”
After Saturday’s win over the Red Wings, Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau deferred to Shanahan in regards to any decision regarding supplemental discipline.
“I’m not going to say anything,” Boudreau said. “Mr. Shanahan can look at it, he can read into it what he thinks. We just want our guy to be OK.”
Per Anaheim’s Twitter account, Lydman is experiencing migraines and a stiff neck and did not skate Sunday morning. He is questionable for Game 4.
“He’s a solid veteran,” Boudreau said of Lydman. “He plays the game smart. He doesn’t look too big out there but he’s strong as an ox. We’re hoping he’s not out too long. I’m not a doctor, so I don’t know how long he’s going to be out. I’d love to see him out on the ice tomorrow, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
Abdelkader’s suspension is the third of this year’s NHL playoffs, which are less than a week old.
Last week, the NHL suspended Ottawa defenseman Eric Gryba for two games for his illegal hit on Montreal Canadiens defenseman Lars Eller during an Eastern Conference quarterfinal. Eller was taken off the ice on a stretcher after the hit and was diagnosed with a concussion and facial fractures.
The NHL last week also suspended Boston defenseman Andrew Ference for a game after Ference hit Toronto center Mikhail Grabovski with an elbow to the head in an Eastern Conference quarterfinal.
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.