The two teams at the heart of the NHL's latest head-shot controversies will meet on Saturday at the Air Canada Centre, with both clubs expected to have a checking winger in the penalty box of league disciplinarian Colin Campbell.
The visiting Calgary Flames will be without Tom Kostopoulos, who will miss his third game after being suspended six games last Sunday for a high hit that broke the jaw of Detroit Red Wings defenceman Brad Stuart.
The Toronto Maple Leafs learned Friday that Mike Brown will be suspended the next three games for a check to the head of Phoenix Coyotes defenceman Ed Jovanovski in a 5-1 loss on Thursday.
The Coyotes said Friday that Jovanovski is now nursing a lower-body injury. Stuart had two plates inserted in his jaw on Thursday and will be out six to eight weeks.
Both incidents drew predictable outrage from either side, with the victims crying foul and the perpetrator wondering what the fuss was all about.
"Do I think it was a head shot? Absolutely," Jovanovski said.
"I didn't think it was a bad hit," Brown said. "I was just going in with my shoulder like I normally would. I don't know what I hit on him. I think I just got him in a bad spot."
Brown's suspension is the 20th of the season in the NHL, a figure not far from the 29 given out all of last year. The NHL had also already handed out 10 fines, two more than a year ago.
With roughly 45 per cent of the season to play, the league is on pace for a whopping 57 suspensions or fines this season.
Including Brown, four players have been suspended under the NHL's new blindside head hit rule, which was instituted in the off-season to help curb the number of concussions in the league. Two others have been fined the maximum $2,500 (U.S.) for hits to the head.
Many of the other infractions met with supplementary discipline this season involved blows to the head from fists or sticks, a sign the crackdown extends beyond blindside checks.
Ian Pulver, a player agent and former NHL Players' Association lawyer, said Friday that the rise in suspensions and fines isn't in itself a concern given just how new the head-shot rule is.
According to Pulver, however, part of what contributes to the problem is that players still don't know exactly what will land them in hot water with the league as the rulebook evolves.
"Discipline works if it curbs behaviour and the players play within the rules and some of these things eventually go away," Pulver said. "Only time will tell. I think we need to give players and the league more time because it's too early to determine this new rule is working or not.
"But what I believe needs to be better handled is the players need to be better educated all the time on what's acceptable and what's not acceptable. … Do players in L.A. and San Jose know why a guy in Ottawa or Detroit got suspended? Do they really grasp it? Or is everybody getting ready to play tonight? That's part of the issue."
Unlike many suspensions to players down the depth chart, Brown's absence will have a ripple effect on the Leafs lineup.
With Brown unavailable and teammates Kris Versteeg and Fredrik Sjostrom battling injuries, Toronto was forced to demote rookie netminder James Reimer to open a spot on the 23-man roster to recall forward Marcel Mueller from the minors.
Reimer had played well since being recalled in mid-December, posting a 4-2-0 record, 2.27 goals-against average and .933 save percentage.Report Typo/Error