The NHL Department of Player Safety is staying busy this season, handing down yet another suspension. Winnipeg Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey has been suspended for Game Five of the Jets’ first round series against the Minnesota Wild for cross-checking Eric Staal in the head area. The check, which went unnoticed by the officials, was followed up moments later by a Winnipeg goal. Staal was able to return to the game, but that made the check no less dangerous and purposeful. As Player Safety explains in this video:
“Morrissey sees Staal and moves towards him, raising his stick… Morrissey raises his stick above his shoulders and makes sharp contact with Staal’s neck. This is cross-checking… This also is not a routine motion to box out an opponent. Staal is in Morrissey’s field of vision. There is no ongoing battle between the players. Morrissey is in control of this play and initiates contact… This is a reckless strike to an opponent’s neck with sufficient force to merit supplemental discipline.”
While Staal and the Wild are happy to have Morrissey out of the lineup for an elimination game on Friday, head coach Bruce Boudreau was frank that the lack of an in-game call cost Minnesota a win. Not only should the first goal of the game soon after not have happened, but the Wild should have enjoyed at least a two-minute power play.
Perhaps the Wild will get their revenge against a Jets blue line that is severely lacking right now. With Morrissey’s suspension on top of injuries to Tyler Myers and Toby Enstrom and the long-term injury absence of Dmitry Kulikov, Winnipeg may be left to employ all three of Joe Morrow, Tucker Poolman, and Sami Niku in Game Five, none of whom began the year as starters for the Jets. The suspension may also throw Paul Maurice for a loop; the head coach expected a hearing, but was adamant that Morrissey’s check did not have the requisite intent to warrant a suspension. However, Player Safety continues to play hardball in these playoffs.