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It didn’t take long for the NHL to have its first frightening scene of the 2013-14 campaign. In the first weekend of preseason action, defenseman Rusty Klesla of the Phoenix Coyotes was taken off on a stretcher after a hit by Jordan Nolan of the Los Angeles Kings in an exhibition game at Jobing.com Arena on Sunday.
The incident occurred at 9:44 of the first period. Nolan’s hit, which made contact with Klesla’s head according to eyewitnesses, sent the Coyotes defenseman to the ice, his leg twitching as he was otherwise motionless. He was soon placed on a stretcher and carted off, giving the crowd a thumbs-up on his way off the ice.
In the aftermath of the hit, the Coyotes’ Martin Hanzal was given a roughing minor along with Nolan. On his first shift out of the box, Nolan took an elbow from Hanzal, embellished it, and then Paul Bissonnette of Phoenix took matters into his own hands, leaving the bench to fight the Kings forward and earned a game misconduct. Phoenix defenseman Derek Morris and Kings brawler Daniel Carcillo were also involved in the melee, getting misconducts.
(Keep in mind this could be very costly for BizNasty, as the NHL would have grounds to suspend him for 10 regular season games depending on the circumstances of his leaving the bench.)
By all accounts, Klesla had a neck in injury from the collision, but hadn’t been taken to a hospital as of late in the game.
Now, about that hit: Will Nolan be suspended?
Here are three evaluations of the incident. First, Sarah McLellan of AZ Central:
Just saw video replay. Nolan leads with shoulder to Klesla's head. Leaves feet on follow-through. Klesla looking down with puck on stick.
— Sarah McLellan (@azc_mclellan) September 16, 2013
A replay of the hit showed Nolan clearly making first contact with Klesla's head under the chin and leaving his feet on the follow through. The hit could be grounds for suspension under Rule 48. The only mitigating factor was that Klesla was skating with his head down (a possibly vulnerable position), but the angle of his head does not appear to change before the hit is made.
Here’s Jon Rosen of LA Kings Insider:
So unless Klesla completely put himself in harm’s way, it sounds like Nolan launched into the hit and made contact with the head. Nolan was fined last year for a cross-check on Henrik Sedin, but was never suspended.
The Coyotes told Fox Sports that the NHL has access to the video from the game, even though it wasn’t shown on television. Sounds like the preseason’s about to start for Sheriff Shanahan, too ...