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Red Wings’ Henrik Zetterberg tossed for hit on Nikita Nikitin

Updated 3x at 11:37 PM: I would imagine that the league will look at this, but Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg did not mean to hurt Nikita Nikitin, and he got 5 and a game for this push:

Here’s hoping that Brendan Shanahan takes the lack of intent to injure into the equation.

Update: From Fox Sports Detroit’s Dana Wakiji:

#RedWings Z: I had my hand on his back.I don’t think I pushed him hard. It looks really bad so I can’t blame the referee 4 giving me 5 mins.
...
#RedWings Z: Shanny and the league is going to review this and see what they feel. The rule is the rule, I made contact and he went down.
...
#RedWings Z: Hopefully he’s OK, I didn’t mean to hurt him and we’ll have to wait and see. I will see if he’s still around and see how he is.
...
#RedWings Babcock: Trying 2 protect the D-men. I talked 2 Denny LaRue,Denny,is that the way you’re calling it? and he said that’s the way.
...
#CBJ Richards: It looks like Z puts his hand on his back just as he’s getting close, so it will b something that the Lg will have to look at

Update #2 at 11:18 PM: Here are some more quotes from MLive’s Ansar Khan:

—Zetterberg, on the play: “The puck went down to the corner and I chased down their defenseman. I had my hand on his back. I don’t think I pushed him hard. He went down. It looked bad, it looks really bad, so I can’t blame the referee for giving me five minutes. ... I really don’t know what to say, it looks bad.”

—Zetterberg, on potential disciplinary action by the NHL: “It’s up to (NHL vice president of player safety Brendan Shanahan). Shanny and the league are going to review this and see what they feel. The rule is the rule, I made contact and he went down. Hopefully he’s OK, I didn’t mean to hurt him and we’ll have to wait and see.”

—Red Wings coach Mike Babcock: “There wasn’t (anything malicious), but still that’s the way they’re calling it. They’re trying to protect the D-men. I talked to (referee) Denny LaRue right away. I just said, ‘Denny, is that the way you’re calling it?’ and he said that’s the way. So why wouldn’t they (call it)? We’re trying to protect the players. It was an unfortunate play. I hope the guy’s not hurt.’‘

—Columbus captain Rick Nash: “It’s a dangerous play. But the whole league knows that (Zetterberg) is not that kind of a player. I thought he was going for the puck. I don’t think Zetterberg is that kind of player.”

—Columbus coach Todd Richards: “I did see it. I looked at the replay. He obviously goes into the board awkward. It looks like Zetterberg puts his hand on his back just as he’s getting close, so it will be something that the league will have to look at and then make a ruling on.”

—Richards: “It’s that danger area, where guys are going into the boards and at full speed when guys are moving it’s dangerous. ... And that’s really where the danger comes. It’s not the physical hit. It’s throwing a guy off-balance, which I think in looking at it … the hand on the back throws him off-balance a little bit. The game is moving so fast now that, again, just a little bit here or there and you’re going into the boards at full speed.”

Here’s the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline’s story about the incident:

No immediate update was available from interim coach Todd Richards after the game, but the replay was gruesome.

“Nikki’s a big part of our team and logs a lot of minutes, plays in all situations, so it’s a big hole,” Richards said.

Nikitin was retrieving a puck in his own end at full speed, with Zetterberg trailing the play at 10:09 of the third. As he neared the end boards, Zetterberg placed his left glove in the small of Nikitin’s back and appeared to shove him, if only gently, as they neared the goal line. That was enough to knock Nikitin off-balance, and he slammed into the wall at full speed. All of his weight was absorbed by his left ankle.

Here’s Richards after watching the hit on replay: “It’s that danger area, where guys are going into the boards and at full speed when guys are moving. It’s dangerous. I watched the Boston (vs. NY Rangers) game today and they had a similar incident there, where a guy was going into the boards, and took a little push or shove to throw him off-balance … and that’s really where the danger comes. It’s not the physical hit. It’s throwing a guy off-balance. Looking at it … the hand on the back throws him off balance a little bit. The game is moving so fast now that, again, just a little bit here or there and you’re going into the boards at full speed.”

Obviously, Zetterberg has no reputation for dirty play. Any suggestion that the play was malicious on his part is absurd. He had 16 penalty minutes coming into the game, and picked up 15 on that play alone. Folks in Detroit are saying it’s the first major penalty of his career. Can’t imagine he’s picked up too many game misconducts, either.

He spoke with Detroit reporters after the game: “The puck went down to the corner and I chased down their defenseman. I had my hand on his back. I don’t think I pushed him hard. He went down. It looked bad, it looks really bad, so I can’t blame the referee for giving me five-minutes. I really don’t know what to say, it looks bad.”

Zetterberg knows he’s going to hear from his former teammate, NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan. He said he hoped to reach out to Nikitin before the Blue Jackets left Joe Louis Arena, too: “You know what – it’s up to Shanny, it’s up to Shanny,” Zetterberg said. Shanny and the league is going to review this and see what they feel. The rule is the rule, I made contact and he went down. Hopefully he’s OK, I didn’t mean to hurt him and we’ll have to wait and see.”

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Comments

42jeff's avatar

Time served.


Even the 5 was crap.

Posted by 42jeff from The greater Howard City, MI metroplex on 01/22/12 at 12:56 AM ET

DocF's avatar

Was it boarding?  Yup.  Was it a major? No way!  That little push on an already spraddle-legged player is boarding (probably) but there is no intent to injure, no hard hit, no hit at all, really.  Hell, the way they call things now, that wasn’t even much of a boarding call.

Doc

Posted by DocF from Now: Lynn Haven, FL; was Reidsville, NC on 01/22/12 at 12:57 AM ET

John W.'s avatar

Sure I’ll be labeled as a whiny Wings homer here, but this should have only been a 2 minute penalty, and no way there is a suspension.  There wasn’t even much of a push, it was a play made just about everytime 2 players goto the boards.  Hank put his hand on Nikitin’s back to essentially guide them both into the boards and Nikitin lost an edge.  It looked bad live, but it was just unfortunate.

Posted by John W. from a bubble wrap cocoon on 01/22/12 at 01:00 AM ET

Avatar

I’m not going to complain about the major because everyone should know better than to push someone, even a little bit, when you’re that close to the boards on an icing call, though I do think the misconduct was a bit much.

Now, having said all that; no touch icing, please.  This type of thing with the huge injury potential doesn’t need to happen.

Posted by Garth on 01/22/12 at 01:01 AM ET

DocF's avatar

The kid had already lost his footing and had feet starting to go in different directions by the time Zetterberg touched him.  Somewhere back when we finally got something resembling boards on Plaster Creek, I learned that if you fall down a lot, you will get hurt if you cannot keep your legs together when you hit boards or a well frozen pile of snow.

Either the officials blew that or Zetterberg will get a couple of games suspension which he does not deserve.  The injury was the fault of the kid and his position upon hitting the boards.

Doc

Posted by DocF from Now: Lynn Haven, FL; was Reidsville, NC on 01/22/12 at 01:08 AM ET

Chet's avatar

no suspension. just unlucky timing but didn’t look malicious at all.

Posted by Chet from twitter: thegansen on 01/22/12 at 01:21 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

Babcock stated after the game that he asked the ref if that’s the way they’re calling it, and that’s the way they’re calling it.

As Ken Daniels and Mickey Redmond said, if there’s a violent collision with the boards, they’re putting the onus on the player to not do so much as make contact, and I think the injury obviously played its way into the equation.

I’m guessing time served is time served. It was no Andrew Ference hit…

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 01/22/12 at 01:25 AM ET

Chet's avatar

a broken ankle’s a real possibility for the kid. hope he’s ok.

Posted by Chet from twitter: thegansen on 01/22/12 at 01:28 AM ET

SYF's avatar

Babcock stated after the game that he asked the ref if that’s the way they’re calling it, and that’s the way they’re calling it.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 01/21/12 at 10:25 PM ET

By his asking that, I think that alters a part of the Wings strategy along the boards.  I don’t even know how they’re going to adjust their game if they’re calling it that way now.

Posted by SYF from the team that re-signed KFQ and DFC by KFH on 01/22/12 at 01:42 AM ET

rrasco's avatar

Calling it like what, no-touch hockey? The contact was inherent to minimize the impact.  Of course Z isn’t going to be professional about it.  I knew hockey was similar to soccer, but damn.

Posted by rrasco from TEXAS on 01/22/12 at 02:50 AM ET

Chris in Hockey Hell's avatar

I’ll go ahead and say it, that was the absolute worst 5-and-a-game I’ve ever seen called. And I’m sorry, but I think it’s bullshit that there was any penalty called in the first place. Z’s hand on Nikitin’s back had nothing to do with the fall. Z didn’t even extend his arm, there was no push. Nikitin fell on his own. I feel bad the dude is hurt, but if Z gets suspended, I will be livid beyond comprehesion. Any BJ fans out there want to call me a “homer” go ahead but you know that was a bullshit 5er.

That said, the Wings need to get off their asses and stop with this shootout nonsense.

Rant over. For now.

Posted by Chris in Hockey Hell from Ann Arbor, MI but LIVING in Columbia, TN on 01/22/12 at 03:14 AM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

This play is Exhibit #1 in the case for the “bear hug” rule. If Hank, realizing that he’s lost the battle for the puck, is allowed to grab Nikitin in order to prevent both of them from the possibility of a serious injury, then nothing happens here.

The “bear hug” rule is the perfect compromise between what exists now and no-touch icing. Let’s see if the owners can “grow a pair” and implement it before another dozen or so players sit out 20-30 games with serious knee injuries.

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 01/22/12 at 03:19 AM ET

Aphaea's avatar

I’m sorry Nikitin got hurt on the play, but Zetterberg didn’t deserve the game misconduct. I can understand calling a 5er, though I think a 2-minute penalty would have been more appropriate. But 5-and-a-game? I’ve seen worse hits than this that didn’t result in tossing the offending player.

The incident itself is really unfortunate timing. Nikitin lost an edge and Zetterberg had his hand on his back, though there was no push from what I’ve been able to see. For anyone who may think I’m a homer: if it was the other way around, with Zetterberg losing an edge and Nikitin with his hand on his back, I’d still come to the same conclusion.

Posted by Aphaea on 01/22/12 at 04:11 AM ET

tuxedoTshirt's avatar

Hey, this is not on an icing, right?  I don’t like no-touch icing at all, and I think a lot of people would agree, if they saw more of it.  This play is basically my argument.  Because it’s not icing, it’s just a normal race to the boards, and it’s an integral part of hockey.  Whatever we do to make it safer, we shouldn’t just pick one type of puck race to dispose of.

Posted by tuxedoTshirt from the Home of the 1937 World Champions on 01/22/12 at 04:55 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

If this is the rule, and this very simply means that players have to watch out for their opponents when they’re racing for a puck, and if somebody gets hurt, they may get tossed at the ref’s discretion—stupid as that discretion might be from time to time—this is better than stamping a, “Keep your head up” or, “This is just the kind of stuff that might happen from time to time if we have ‘battles’ for the puck” line on it.

The “bear hug” would result in all sorts of obstruction creeping into the game on the basis of supposedly protecting one’s opponent from harm. No-touch icing or prohibiting any body contact below the goal line (the race to the goal line isn’t a bad thing, folks) would more or less eliminate forechecking.

It’s pretty easy from a Wing fan’s perspective to argue that this should have been a two-minute minor as Zetterberg’s contact was inadvertent, and that this is the opposite of Andrew Ference’s hit on Ryan McDonagh, where Ference had the opportunity to let up but chose to pursue the hit (and I don’t think the opportunity to bear hug his opponent would have gave Ference any pause).

Zetterberg definitely didn’t intend to trip up Nikitin, and he got the short end of the stick due to the injury that occurred, especially if you check out his comments above, but if this rule tells players to be bloody careful when they’re skating toward the boards with an opponent because broken ankles aren’t just an occupational hazard, well then, I guess that’s how they’re gonna call it.

The Wings dealt with a call that was the result of a referee’s discretion as opposed to the hit because the ref reacted to what he saw in real time, and them’s the breaks.

Sometimes being on the tip of the spear of a change in the game’s culture sucks donkey balls, but sometimes you’ve gotta deal with it.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 01/22/12 at 06:13 AM ET

JBytes's avatar

Zettergerg hardly touched the guy.  It’s unfortunate, but accidents do happen in a fast-paced game like this.  If Zetterberg gets suspended or fined for this, we might as well make the NHL a no contact league and be done with it.

Posted by JBytes on 01/22/12 at 06:17 AM ET

Chet's avatar

dive

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

smile

Posted by Chet from twitter: thegansen on 01/22/12 at 09:27 AM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

I’m very curious to see how the league will react to this. It looks fairly similar to the push that Marian Hossa put on Dan Hamhuis in the Hawks/Preds series a couple of years ago.

The rules were different back then and Hossa actually got to return to the game (and won it in overtime for Chicago), but he wasn’t assessed supplemental discipline.

I don’t think it should warrant supplemental discipline, but if Shanahan sees it that way, then it is what it is. I hope Nikitin returns quickly.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 01/22/12 at 01:56 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

And yet, no penalty call on the knee on knee that was delivered to Pavel.

mad

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 01/22/12 at 03:46 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.