The decision is in. Nashville Predators forward Ryan Johansen has been suspended two games by the Department of Player Safety for his high stick on Winnipeg Jets forward Mark Scheifele. As the accompanying video explains:
It is important to note that the high-sticking rule states that players are responsible for their stick at all times. While we accept Johansen’s assertion that he was not attempting to intentionally strike Scheifele in the head, this is not a case where a player is so off balance or otherwise unable to control his stick that the play can be sufficiently penalized by the on-ice officials. On this play, Johansen raises his stick as part of his pivoting motion to get around his opponent. This is a common movement uses regularly by NHL players when space is tight, however players who attempt this maneuver are responsible for ensuring they bring their stick back to the ice in a safe manner.
It continues by explaining that Johansen has no history with the league’s disciplinary arm, as he has never been suspended or fined in his career. That seems to have saved him from further punishment, as these violent stick infractions are often penalized with longer suspensions. As it stands, the Predators will be without Johansen for just the next few days. He will be eligible to return for the team’s game on Wednesday against the Vegas Golden Knights, before the team breaks for the All-Star festivities.
While two games without one of their star centers is difficult, the Predators are in a good position to deal with it even if they did eventually lose to the Jets. Nashville sits ten points ahead of the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars in the Central Division, safely in the second playoff position. The bigger issue might be for Johansen going forward, given that this incident will now be taken into account every time he is involved in any play that may warrant supplementary discipline.