The NHL has suspended New Jersey Devils forward Miles Wood two games for hitting Tampa Bay Lightning forward Vladislav Namestnikov from behind.
The play in question happened last night during the second period of the Devils’ 4-3 victory over the Lightning. Namestnikov chased a loose puck along the boards, while Wood followed him and delivered a dangerous hit directly on Namestnikov’s numbers. The Lightning forward went face first into the glass and collapsed in a heap on the ice. Teammate Andrej Sustr came in to exact some revenge, but Wood ended up catching Sustr with a devastating right hand, leaving Sustr bloodied. All in all, it was absolutely mayhem.
Check it out for yourself:
Ouch. That’s two brutal and violent plays back-to-back for Wood. While it appears that Sustr got the worst end of things, it was actually the hit on Namestnikov that earned Wood his suspension. After all, Namestnikov was in an extremely vulnerable position and Wood drive through him without any regard. It was an extremely dangerous hit that could have put Namestnikov in the hospital. Because of this, fans are outraged by the severity of the suspension, with many calling for five games or more.
In doling out their punishment, NHL Player Safety explained their reasons for the suspension saying that, "Wood delivers a hard, forceful hit directly into [Namestnikov's] numbers, driving him dangerously into the boards. This is boarding." Wood was assessed a boarding penalty on the play, but given the reckless nature of the hit, the NHL felt it necessary to hand out supplemental discipline.
"It is important to note that from the moment Wood leaves the top of the circle until the hit is laid, he sees nothing but Namestnikov's numbers. This is not a case of an opponent turning just prior to contact in a way that turns an legal hit into an illegal one. Wood has sufficient time to adjust his course to deliver a legal hit, minimize the hit or avoid the hit entirely. Instead he hits directly through Namestinkov's numbers with substantial force... "
This is Wood’s first NHL suspension and his first interaction with NHL Player Safety and that no doubt factored into the league’s decision making. The 22-year-old left winger is having a breakout year of sorts with the Devils this season. In 57 games the Devils sophomore has 16 goals and 26 points, this nearly doubles his goal and point totals from a year ago. While it appears that the young forward has some offensive upside to his game, he’ll do well to avoid plays like this in the future.
As for Namestnikov, thankfully he was not injured on the play and remained in the game. The 25-year-old winger has had an absolutely MONSTER season playing along NHL leaders Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov. In 59 games, the former 1st round draft pick has 19 goals and 42 points, both career highs. It’s not impossible to imagine Namestnikov hitting 30 goals and 60 points this season. Incredible.