New Jersey Devils Coach Pete DeBoer called Rangers forward Brandon Prust's Game 3 elbow against defenseman Anton Volchenkov "headhunting … plain and simple." New York Rangers Coach John Tortorella called Prust an "honest player" and inferred that Volchenkov sold the incident. Prust himself said "it wasn't vicious at all," while Volchenkov said it was "pretty dirty."
The NHL Department of Player Safety? It determined it was worth a one-game suspension for Prust, who will miss Monday's Game 4 of the Eastern Conference final in Newark:
The incident occurred at 2:31 of the second period. There was no penalty called on the play.
As the video shows, Prust flailed out his arm to clip Volchenkov in the head after the Devils defenseman spun away from a check.
That fact that there was no injury on the play and that Prust has no prior interaction with Brendan Shanahan and the Department of Player Safety might make a one-game suspension in the Eastern Conference final seem severe.
But Shanahan and the NHL have sent a message twice about this kind of hit, with this type of result.
They suspended two players for head shots of varying degrees of impact: James Neal of the Pittsburgh Penguins, whose glancing hit on Claude Giroux earned him one game, and Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers, whose head shot on Dainius Zubrus had him suspended for his team's elimination game vs. the Devils.
Prust's suspension is consistent with those rulings.
It's a somewhat significant loss for the Rangers. Prust plays between 12-14 minutes per game, throwing his body and winning battles along the boards. But the real loss is on the penalty kill: He's played well over two minutes in each conference final game, including 3:58 in Game 3, where the Devils were 0 for 5 on the power play.
So a little more pressure on Ryan Callahan, Brian Boyle and Derek Stepan on the kill; and perhaps a bump up in ice time for Brad Richards short-handed.
Did the NHL get this one right?