Not only will the Coyotes be without winger Raffi Torres for the remainder of the playoffs, but Torres could miss part of next season.
The NHL handed Torres a 25-game suspension Saturday for his hit on the Chicago Blackhawks’ Marian Hossa in Game 3.
Before the incident, the 30-year-old Torres had received supplemental discipline four times in his 11-year career, and he already had been fined and suspended this season.
“My main concern is for the healthy recovery of Marian Hossa, and I hope that he will be able to get back on the ice to compete again soon,” Torres said in a statement. “I sincerely regret injuring Marian.”
According to the NHL department of player safety, three key factors were critical in determining the punishment:
The hit violated three NHL rules.
Hossa was injured on the play.
Torres has a history of delivering similar hits.
At 11:42 of the first period during Game 3, Torres connected his left shoulder with Hossa’s head after he lost control of the puck in the neutral zone.
Torres left his feet, and the hit was an example of interference, charging and an illegal check to the head.
Hossa had to be taken off the ice on a stretcher and went to local hospital for further testing before he was released.
He did not travel with the Blackhawks to Phoenix for Game 5.
Since the start of the 2010-2011 campaign, Torres has been suspended four games for elbowing, fined $2,500 for elbowing and suspended two games for charging.
“Obviously it’s not what any of us would have expected,” defenseman Derek Morris said. “It’s way more extreme than any of us would have expected, but we can’t change their minds, so we’re going to have to move on and rally for Raffi.”
Torres, along with his agents and the NHL Players’ Association, has the right to appeal the ruling.
“Regarding the severity of the suspension issued, I will take the next few days to decide whether or not to appeal the decision,” Torres said.
Game 4 counted toward the suspension, so after Saturday’s game, Torres has 23 games to serve. If the Coyotes require seven games for each series in moving all to the Stanley Cup Finals, Torres will have completed his suspension.
If the Coyotes don’t advance that far, Torres would be ineligible for preseason games, and the suspension would carry over to the 2012-2013 regular season. he would forfeit more than $21,000 for every regular season game he misses.
“We addressed it with our club,” coach Dave Tippett said. “It’s an unfortunate incident, but the league has their say, and we move on.”
The suspension is tied for the second-longest in NHL history.
“I want to thank Brendan Shanahan and his staff for their thorough review of this incident,” General Manager Don Maloney said. “The ruling is very severe for Raffi and our Hockey Club. Raffi plays a hard, physical game yet this contract crossed the line on what is acceptable in our game today. We hope Marian Hossa makes a full and speedy recovery as we all enjoy watching him perform. the Club accepts the NHL’s decision and will focus on our game tonight.”
After winger Mikkel Boedker delivered his second consecutive overtime winner in Thursday’s Game 4, Tippett told Lauri Korpikoski that his spot on a line with Boyd Gordon and Taylor Pyatt might have been stolen by Boedker.
“Tip’s kind of playing mind games with me here,” Korpikoski said with a smile.
Though the Coyotes missed Korpikoski’s speed and defensive awareness in the lineup since he went out because of an injury in Game 2, Boedker has been efficient as a penalty killer and found ways to chip in offensively at crucial times.
“He has an effect on the game without points, and every player wants to get points — don’t get me wrong,” Tippett said. “They get a goal, and everybody’s happy and their friends all text them and everything’s good. but the one thing with Boeds we’ve had to stay on him and say, ‘You have an effect on the game even if you don’t score. If you’re doing things right, you help us win.’”
Korpikoski was back in the lineup for Game 5. he played with Boedker and Gordon.
The Coyotes still were without center Martin Hanzal, who also was injured in Game 2.