The Department of Player Safety has handed out a two-game ban to Nick Ritchie for his punch on Michal Rozsival last night. The Anaheim Ducks forward will miss the regular season finale on Sunday against the Los Angeles Kings, and the first game of the playoffs. Ritchie attacked Rozsival after the Blackhawks’ defenseman sent Corey Perry sprawling to the ice with a crosscheck. The DoPS explains their decision in the accompanying video:
…while Rozsival did crosscheck Perry seconds before this altercation, Ritchie’s response is in no way permitted or excusable. Ritchie has acknowledged that he confronted Rozsival to seek retribution for the crosscheck, which was already being penalized by the on-ice officials. Rozsival has his hands to his sides, and gives no indication that he is a willing combatant in a potential fight, or is anyway prepared for the altercation to escalate. With no reason to suspect that Rozsival is ready or willing to fight, Ritchie quickly drops his gloves and delivers a forceful, bare-knuckle punch directly to Rozsival’s face at a time Rozsival is unable to defend himself.
Despite the fact that Ritchie has no record of fines or suspensions during his NHL career—though he does have multiple suspensions at the OHL level—he received a longer penalty than Micheal Haley, who was recently involved in a similar incident. The fact that Rozsival suffered an injury when Haley’s victim, Calle Jarnkrok, did not seems to be the deciding factor. With the Ducks needing just a point in their final game (or an Edmonton loss in one of their final two) to lock up first place in the Pacific Division, perhaps the league thought sitting Ritchie for just one game to not be important enough. If it ends up being Calgary that the Ducks play in the first round, Ritchie will be sorely missed as the two meet for the first time since Cam Fowler’s injury earlier this week.
For Ducks fans, this seems like a harsh punishment for a punch when other things are going unpunished around the league. While Ritchie is known for his physical play, he rarely dips into dangerous territory and has shown himself to be a capable player up and down the lineup this season. Ondrej Kase will likely stay in the lineup, and it will be interesting to see who else draws in. Ritchie also has to be careful in the future, as he is now a “repeat offender” in the eyes of the league for the next 18 months and would sacrifice a larger portion of salary should he be suspended again.