Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri has been suspended for three games for his hit on Minnesota Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom.
The incident occurred in Minnesota’s overtime win Wednesday night. Backstrom was knocked out of the game and is likely out for Friday’s game.
The NHL announced the suspension after a hearing with Kadri on Thursday. He was suspended three games for the hit on Backstrom, which drew a goaltender interference penalty, but Kadri also had a questionable hit on center Mikael Granlund later in the game that drew a match penalty.
“Obviously, you're never a fan of that,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said after the game. “The league's done a good job of addressing those things so we'll just leave it at that.”
The league handed out the suspension even though it ruled the hit on Backstrom not to be an intentional act. In the video released by the NHL’s department of player safety, the league said the collision with Backstrom was elevated to suspension level because Kadri was in control of the play and it was a direct and forceful blow.
After tipping a shot, Kadri collided with Backstrom and his elbow made contact with the goalie’s head.
“While we accept Kadri’s assertion that this was not intentional, he still bears the responsibility for avoiding, or at least making a better attempt to avoid and minimize contact such as this,” the league announced in the video. “He does neither.”
Backstrom was motionless on the ice for a few minutes and, though he initially stayed in the game, was replaced by Josh Harding two minutes later. After the game, Yeo said Backstrom had an upper-body injury.
Kadri has never been fined or suspended previously, and will forfeit $44,615.37 for the suspension.
“He’s a good player,” Wild forward Jason Pominville said after the game. “He usually doesn’t run around like that. Obviously, I’m sure the hit will probably get looked at. We don’t really agree with those types of hits, and that’s what I feel we’re trying to get out of the game. It’s not up to us to make those decisions. The league will take a look at it and go from there.
“It’s usually not his style of play. He’s a pretty honest player that works hard and has got talent. It was kind of surprising it came from him.”
Minnesota is now likely without Backstrom, at least in the short term.
Backstrom wasn’t on the ice for the team’s practice on Thursday, and Yeo said he wouldn’t be in uniform for Friday night’s home game.
“I don’t have a diagnosis yet for you,” Yeo said Thursday.
Granlund was also out of practice on Thursday, which was optional, but Yeo didn’t seem concerned that Granlund would miss time.
“Obviously with those things you’re not in the clear for a couple days here, but we expect him to be fine,” Yeo said.
Yeo took issue with the claim that his team didn’t respond physically to the hits by Kadri, and said the team responded in the way it needed to.
“Where we have to be better is on the power play,” Yeo said Thursday. “Teams have to be afraid to try to pull that crap on us, so that they’re fearful of our power play. But at the same time what I like is that our guys continued to play the game.
“I’ll take exception with anybody that tries to call us soft, because that’s not true. Where we’d be soft is if they tried to have a physical impact on us. As far as I’m concerned, we kind of raised our game. That to me is tough. It’s a different type of tough.”