No suspension to Nino Niederreiter for headshot on Canucks' Alex Burrows

A screengrab of the moment Nino Niederreiter hits Alex Burrows in the head.

Burrows Niederreiter headshot

A screengrab of the moment Nino Niederreiter hits Alex Burrows in the head.

Alex Burrows has had a season straight from the pits of Hell. The injury trouble started in game one, when he broke his ankle blocking a shot, and it hasn't stopped since. A puck to the face broke his jaw. He even managed to sprain his hand in a fight with Phil Kessel and chip his tooth eating a granola bar, as if you needed proof this was a run of incredible bad luck.

More proof: it took Burrows, a four-time 20-goal guy, until March 12th to score his first of the season, at which point the heavens opened up and he scored three more times in his next three games. Then he was injured again, this time on a slash to the hand from Shea Weber. He returned Wednesday night versus the Minnesota Wild, hoping to pick up where he left off.

In a way, he did. Midway through the second period, his calamity-prone season continued, as Nino Niederreiter hit him in the head attempting an open-ice body check.

Burrows left for the quiet room. Niederreiter left for the penalty box to serve two minutes for interference. And Vancouver fans were left to await what they assumed would be a suspension to Niederreiter, since it looked pretty bad, especially in GIF form:

GIF: Best look at hit on Alex Burrows by Nino Niederreiter on Twitpic
GIF: Best look at hit on Alex Burrows by Nino Niederreiter on Twitpic

But on Thursday, the Department of Player Safety spoke on the hit, deeming it not suspendable despite the clear head contact.

Niederreiter makes full body contact. While there is contact to head, refer to rule 48 points (i) & (ii). In spite of some head contact, NN hits squarely thru the body. He does not "pick" the head as a result of poor timing, poor angle of approach, or unnecessary extension upward or outward. We believe that some head contact on this otherwise full bodycheck was unavoidable. The reverse angle shows this most clearly.

The reverse angle is the photo at the top of this post.

Considering the year he's having, of course Burrows would get hurt by way of the rare, acceptable headshot.

Anyway, that's probably not going to make Vancouver fans, who feel the league's out to get them at the best of times, feel any better. It's tough to see beyond a headshot, especially after the Department of Player Safety agrees that there was "some head contact".

Many Canucks fans are still sore over the suspension to Alex Edler for his headshot on Tomas Hertl (hey, remember him?). The Department was unwilling to forgive arguably unavoidable head contact in that scenario, and to hear John Tortorella tell it, that suspension signalled the end of Edler's strong run of play to start the year.

"I just know [Edler] was playing really well prior to that ridiculous suspension," John Tortorella snarled back in November.

The two hits really aren't all that comparable, though. As the Department notes, Neiderreiter may have gotten Burrows in the noggin, but he also makes full body contact. Edler got nothing but cranium. If the goal here is to eliminate hits to the head, it's tough to forgive a hit where that's literally all that happens.

This might soften the blow for Vancouver fans: Burrows was okay. 

"As soon as I got up, I knew I was fine," he told the Vancouver Sun. "But I’ve had two concussions before and both times I got up and my legs went all Bambi on me. So I wanted to be sure. Nowadays, you don’t take any chances and there’s a protocol. The doctor came into the room and asked me a bunch of questions. It was kind of annoying because I wanted to get back out there and play, but you have to be careful.”

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