Canucks' Alex Edler slapped with two-game suspension by NHL for hit on Coyotes goalie Mike Smith
Goaltender Mike Smith of the Phoenix Coyotes is hit from behind from Alex Edler of the Vancouver Canucks during the second period of Thursday's National Hockey League game at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Ariz. Edler received a five-minute penalty on the play.
Photograph by: Christian Petersen, Getty Images
LOS ANGELES — Already missing some key forwards, the Vancouver Canucks will now be without defenceman Alex Edler for the next two games.
Edler was handed a two-game suspension early Friday night by former defenceman Rob Blake, who now works in the NHL's operations department, for his hit on Phoenix goalie Mike Smith on Thursday night.
Edler collided with Smith behind the Phoenix net late in the second period while Smith was attempting to play the puck. Edler received a five-minute major for charging.
"While we agree Edler had no malicious intent on this play we believe he does not make any effort to minimize or avoid contact," Blake said in the video released by the NHL to explain its ruling (see video below).
Canucks management declined interview requests, but general manager Mike Gillis issued the following statement: "As an organization we respect the NHL and its process for supplemental discipline. While we may not agree with this ruling, we will move forward and prepare for our important game tomorrow in Los Angeles. We do not intend to comment further on this matter."
Edler will miss Saturday afternoon's game in Los Angeles against the Kings (1 p.m., Sportsnet Pacific, Team 1040) and Sunday night's game in Denver vs. the Colorado Avalanche. He will forfeit $35,135 in salary.
"Rather than attempt to minimize or avoid contact, Edler takes a direct route through Smith making contact with his head," Blake said in the video. "This is charging against a goaltender. As it is defined by Rule 42, a goalkeeper is not fair game just because he is outside the goal crease area."
Blake noted that incidental contact at the discretion of the referee is permitted when the goalkeeper is in the act of playing the puck outside his goal crease "providing the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact."
The NHL clearly felt Edler did not make an attempt to avoid Smith. In handing down the two-game suspension, Blake said the league took into account that Edler has no previous disciplinary history. The league also considered the fact that Smith was injured on the play.
Smith finished the second period, but did not return to play the third period.
Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said Smith saw a doctor on Friday and then received treatment.
"We'll see if he feels good enough to practise on Sunday," Tippett told reporters in Phoenix.
Edler's teammates came to his defence on Friday, a few hours before the decision was announced.
"Knowing Alex, you know that if he did hit his head it definitely was not intentional," said Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo.
Smith is one of the NHL's best goalies when it comes to handling the puck and the Canucks wanted to pressure him when he had a chance to play it.
"He is one of the best puck-handlers in the league and he's not afraid to get out there," Luongo said.
Forward Chris Higgins, who missed Thursday night's game with a bad back, watched the play from the Vancouver dressing room.
"It seemed like he was just trying to take the wall away and he had a lot of speed and sometimes when you get stuck on the wall it is hard to move side to side," Higgins said.
"Smith was taking away the only place he could have moved. I don't know how he could have avoided a collision … He kind of hugged the wall and I think it looked bad because it jerked his head back when he got hit and that's what people are looking at nowadays."
Fellow defenceman Chris Tanev said he felt Edler was trying to get past Smith.
"He definitely was trying to squeeze through him, but they are both such big guys and behind the net there's not much space for both of them to move around." Tanev said. "He (Smith) looks guys off a lot and he is so good moving the puck as a goaltender that Alex was just trying to get his stick and happened to run into him. I'm pretty sure he was just trying to squeeze by him and happened to hit him."
Edler is the second Canuck player to be suspended this season. Winger Jannik Hansen received a one-game suspension for his elbow to the back of the head of Chicago winger Marian Hossa in a Feb. 19 game at the United Center.
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