Phil Kessel’s status for Tuesday’s preseason game may be in limbo thanks to a late-afternoon NHL hearing about his role in Sunday’s brawl but even though David Clarkson has already been punished for his role in the same incident, he will be in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ lineup against the Ottawa Senators.
But Clarkson’s reprieve is only temporary and only the result of a technicality. Since his suspension is for 10 regular-season games for leaving the players’ bench while there was an altercation on the ice, he is free to play in the preseason games. And that’s what Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle intends to do with his new winger.
“It’s best that he play as many games a possible, actually,” Carlyle said after the Leafs’ game-day skate on Tuesday. “With the extended period of time he’ll be away from it, we think it’s important he gets some games in.”
During his suspension, which will be up on Oct. 25, Clarkson can travel and practice with the Leafs. He just can’t appear in any regular-season games.
“He’ll definitely travel with the team for the first two [games],” Carlyle said. “He can skate with us in the morning skate and what-not. We’ll try and keep him as game-ready as possible.”
Neither Clarkson nor Kessel would speak to the media Tuesday about their roles in Sunday’s brawl with the Buffalo Sabres. Clarkson drew his suspension for jumping on the ice after Sabres enforcer John Scott went after Kessel, who retaliated with several blows from his stick. Every player on the ice took part in the fighting, including both goaltenders.
But aside from Clarkson, only Kessel is the subject of further discipline from NHL vice-president Brendan Shanahan. While Kessel may draw a suspension from a preseason game or two for using his stick on Scott, it is not expected to cost him any regular-season games.
Clarkson’s silence for a third consecutive day was due to the fact he is talking to the NHL Players’ Association about an appeal. Players have seven days to file an appeal for suspensions longer than six games and Clarkson is considering his options.
In this case, Clarkson has the right to a further appeal to a neutral arbitrator if NHL commissioner Gary Bettman refuses to overturn the original suspension. Since a player’s public comments about a league suspension can be subject to further discipline from the commissioner, Clarkson is keeping quiet.
Those close to the NHL office are making it clear Bettman will not overturn the automatic suspension and the rule about leaving the bench is quite clear, so Clarkson’s grounds for appeal seem to be limited.