More details should emerge later today about the extent of Drew Doughty's upper-body injury, but in the meantime, it looks like it could be another busy day for Colin Campbell, the NHL's chief disciplinarian, reviewing videotape and trying to administer the NHL's new commitment to getting blindside head shots out of the game.
Doughty, the Los Angeles Kings' defenceman and early-season Norris Trophy favorite, was injured in the opening period of Wednesday's 4-3 win over the visiting Carolina Hurricanes on a play that looked enough like Shane Doan's suspension-worthy hit on Dan Sexton to come under official NHL scrutiny. The league, at least, thought Doan's blindside hit was suspension-worthy and fell afoul of the new blind-side head-shot rule. Doan's view was that he was merely taking Sexton's ice away, and that he'd skated himself into good enough position so that the Anaheim Ducks' forward could see the contact coming. In Doan's view, it was a legal check.
Replays of the hit that Hurricanes' forward Erik Cole delivered on Doughty suggest it was at the very least late - too late, long after Doughty had given up possession of the puck. Doughty skated up the ice, and dished the puck off just before crossing the centre red line. As is his habit, Doughty then carried on through the neutral zone to support the play.
Right at the Hurricane blue line, Cole then came across and cracked Doughty with a hard hit. Could Doughty see him coming? Doubtful. Was the primary contact to the shoulder, or did he come up and hit him in the head? Possibly the latter, in which case Doughty would then be subject to the NHL's concussion protocols and be out for at least a week. In any event, Doughty isn't playing tonight against Phoenix in the first game of a five-game Kings' road trip and the NHL's early-season injury parade continues unabated.
The first month was a bit like this last year too; and it had a real effect on the standings. (Remember how decimated Detroit was? And how it took until the post-Olympic stretch for the Red Wings to nail down a playoff berth?). The Kings have high hopes for this season and at 3-1-1, are off to a decent start. Any significant absence by Doughty will significantly undermine their chances of contending for the Pacific Division crown.