As the Montreal Canadiens prepare to take on the Detroit Red Wings tonight, they are fortunate to do so with forward Kenny Agostino in the lineup. Agostino, who has carved out a nice role for himself with the Habs this season, received a match penalty game misconduct in the first period of the team’s match-up with Minnesota last night for a late hit on the Wild’s Eric Fehr. Yet, missing most of the game and leaving his team shorthanded appears to have been a fitting punishment for Agostino in the league’s eyes. Sportsnet’s Eric Engels reports that no further discipline will come from the Department of Player Safety and instead Agostino will take the ice this evening.
The incident in question occurred early in the first period of last night’s game in Montreal. Agostino hit Fehr with a late check along the boards, despite having enough time to slow up after Fehr had passed the puck away. Fehr fell against the boards in front of his own bench and hit his face on the way down (video). The veteran forward left the game and did not return. Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau told the media today that Fehr is out tonight against the Boston Bruins but due to soreness and not any long-term injury. Both Fehr and Agostino logged just 25 seconds of ice time apiece in the game due to their early collision. In addition to a game misconduct, Agostino earned a major penalty for interference, a penalty that was partially reduced by Minnesota defenseman Nick Seeler who came to the defense of his teammate and fought Agostino, but at the cost of an instigator penalty. Not long after Agostino’s exit, the Canadiens also lost Shea Weber, who was took a puck up high and left the game. Down two skaters for much of the game, Montreal somehow still held the Wild to one goal albeit in a 1-0 defeat.
In his defense, Agostino has no suspension history or past dealings with the Department of Player Safety. While his check on Fehr was certainly late, it was not a heavy or high hit with an intent to injure, but the unfortunate way that Fehr landed caused most of the damage. Although the league could have thrown the book at him for a late, careless hit that caused an injury, the decision not to further discipline Agostino with a fine or suspension seems fair.
Throughout most of his pro career, an absence by Agostino would not have mattered much to his teams. The former AHL standout struggled to earn play time in stops with the Calgary Flames, St. Louis Blues, and Boston Bruins, but has already set a career high in games played (28) and points (11) in Montreal. Agostino is still playing a limited bottom-six role, but improved physicality and extraordinary possession numbers have helped him lock up a spot in the Habs’ lineup. On a $700K two-way contract this season, the winger is a bargain for the Canadiens. However, the 26-year-old is surely looking forward to being a free agent again this summer following his current breakout campaign.