Midway through the first period on Thursday night, Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang retreated to the back of his zone to play the puck. He was hit by Vernon Fiddler, jarring the disc loose.
As it traveled to the corner, Kris Letang lunged with this stick to move it along … right as Eric Nystrom of the Dallas Stars charged in and made contact with Letang's head, knocking the Penguin out of their game:
Nystrom was whistled for a roughing minor. Should he receive more?
The real question will be whether or not Nystrom violated the illegal check to the head rule, which you can find here if you are so inclined. While Mike Milbury may disagree, I think the fact that Letang lowers his head and lunges in the moments before impact will save Nystrom here. Brendan Shanahan has been very clear that if the player who is hit makes a move immediately before contact that puts his head at the level of impact, the fault is not on the checker.
Perhaps. Letang was previously concussed this season on a hit by Max Pacioretty that earned the Montreal Canadiens forward a three-game suspension. (As aside: Here's hoping Letang is OK, as his presence makes the Penguins an exponentially more dangerous team.) At the time, NHL VP of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan said that Letang made "the decision to sacrifice his body, and must accept the possibility of taking a hit to make the play."
The same could be said here of Letang, but Shanny's words on Pacioretty could apply to Nystrom: "What no player should expect is that his head will be picked and made the principal point of contact on such a hit."
Should this be a suspension? As difficult as it was to watch Letang take another brutal hit to the head, I don't expect one. This is Ryan Malone on Chris Campoli again: Letang put himself in harm's way, Nystrom committed to the hit, and the speed of the play ended up with contact with the head.
What say you?