Canucks rookie Jake Virtanen slapped with two-game suspension for 'predatory' hit on Shark

 

 
 
 
 
Vancouver Canucks rookie Jake Virtanen, suspended on Wednesday, will miss Thursday’s game in San Jose and Saturday’s game in Anaheim. (Derek Leung, Getty Images files)
 

Vancouver Canucks rookie Jake Virtanen, suspended on Wednesday, will miss Thursday’s game in San Jose and Saturday’s game in Anaheim. (Derek Leung, Getty Images files)

Photograph by: Derek Leung, Vancouver Sun

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VANCOUVER — Rookie Jake Virtanen was suspended for two games Wednesday for what the NHL’s department of player safety called a late, violent and predatory hit on San Jose Sharks’ defenceman Roman Polak.

Virtanen received a five-minute interference penalty and a game misconduct for the hit, which was delivered near centre ice two minutes into the second period of Tuesday’s game at Rogers Arena.

“What elevates this hit to supplemental discipline is its extreme lateness and the predatory nature of the hit,” the National Hockey League’s department of player safety said in a video explaining its decision.

“Polak has no reason to anticipate being hit this long after moving the puck. This is not a case in which a player finishes a check initiated while his opponent still has the puck. Virtanen has ample time to avoid or at the very least minimize this hit once he recognizes that Polak is no longer in possession of the puck.

“Instead, approaching from the blindside, Virtanen veers sharply into Polak with force, delivering a violent hit well outside the acceptable time frame to deliver a check.”

Virtanen will miss Thursday’s game in San Jose and Friday’s game in Anaheim. He will be eligible to return for Monday’s home game against the Los Angeles Kings.

Virtanen did not accompany the team on its trip to San Jose on Wednesday.

General manager Jim Benning met with Virtanen in his office on Wednesday morning, before Virtanen’s phone hearing with the league. “He came into my office and we had a good talk this morning and then we talked to the league,” Benning said in a TSN 1040 radio interview Wednesday. “Playing physical is part of his DNA and part of what makes him a good player, so I talked to him about being careful going forward with the late hit, the blindside hits. But we don’t want him to curb his physicality because I think it is an important part of our team.”

After Tuesday’s game, Virtanen acknowledged his hit was late, but said he was trying to finish his check.

“I was backchecking and saw Polak move the puck and I just wanted to finish my check and it ended up being a little bit late,” Virtanen said. “But it was shoulder to shoulder, I thought.”

“It was late, a blindside,” captain Henrik Sedin said of the hit. “I don’t think he hit his head. Again, it was a late hit.”

HEADING SOUTH: Benning is heading next week to Tampa, the site of the NCAA Frozen Four tourney. The Canucks have two draft picks, Boston College goalie Thatcher Demko and North Dakota forward Brock Boeser, in the event.

“We are going to see them play (next) Thursday and hope to see them play Saturday in the final against each other,” Benning said.

HAPPY HIGGINS: Back to where he didn’t think he’d ever be again, veteran winger Chris Higgins is determined to enjoy the rest of the season.

Higgins, who had been waived in January and sent to Vancouver’s AHL affiliate in Utica, N.Y., scored the Canucks’ lone goal on Tuesday.

“Just getting back into this locker-room, I didn’t think I’d see the day,” Higgins said. “It was a nice moment for me, for sure.

“It is a different feeling for me, personally. But I am having fun and like I said, I have been through a lot with a lot of the guys in the locker-room and it’s just nice being around again. I missed these guys.”

• WHO'S NEXT? | CANUCKS AT SHARKS

RECENT RUN

The Canucks complete a home-and-away series with the Sharks Thursday night at the SAP Center. This is the fifth and final meeting between the teams. The Sharks have won three of the four games to date, including a 4-1 decision Tuesday at Rogers Arena when Logan Couture had a hat trick as San Jose handed the Canucks their ninth straight loss. Vancouver completes its quick, two-game road trip Friday in Anaheim against the Ducks.

WHO’S HOT

Sharks C Joe Thornton has recorded at least one point in each of San Jose’s last 30 wins. Thornton is second in NHL scoring since Jan. 9. He has 11 goals, 36 assists and 47 points in San Jose’s last 39 games … C Joe Pavelski matched his career high with his 37th goal in Tuesday’s 4-1 win over Vancouver … Brent Burns has 71 points, which is a record for a San Jose defenceman.

TRYAMKIN TRAVELS

Rookie Russian defenceman Nikita Tryamkin made the trip Wednesday to San Jose and figures to be a game-time decision. Tryamkin sat out Tuesday’s game after blocking a shot in Tuesday morning’s game-day skate … The Canucks are in a three-way tie for last place in the NHL with Toronto and Edmonton. The Oilers have played three more games than the Leafs and Canucks. Two of Edmonton’s last three games are against the Canucks.

NOTABLE

The Canucks would match a franchise record tonight if they were to lose their 10th straight game. That record was set under Tom Renney in the fall of 1997 … The Canucks have been outscored 29-8 In their current nine-game skid. Eight different players scored those Vancouver goals … Ryan Miller will start in goal for the Canucks. The Sharks are expected to counter with North Vancouver native Martin Jones, who has won 36 games this season.

QUOTABLE

“We are not in a very good spot right now, we are trying to find positives wherever we can. There’s not a whole lot. But again, we obviously have come to terms we are not going to be playing in the playoffs, but there is still six games left and we are still competing, we are still playing every single one of them like we are trying to win.” — Canucks winger Jannik Hansen on the team’s final six games.

bziemer@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/bradziemer

 

 
 
 
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Vancouver Canucks rookie Jake Virtanen, suspended on Wednesday, will miss Thursday’s game in San Jose and Saturday’s game in Anaheim. (Derek Leung, Getty Images files)
 

Vancouver Canucks rookie Jake Virtanen, suspended on Wednesday, will miss Thursday’s game in San Jose and Saturday’s game in Anaheim. (Derek Leung, Getty Images files)

Photograph by: Derek Leung, Vancouver Sun

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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