The Department of Player Safety has made a decision and Sam Bennett won’t be in game two. The Florida Panthers forward has been suspended one game for his hit on Tampa Bay Lightning forward Blake Coleman in last night’s game. As the accompanying video explains:
It is important to note that while Coleman does turn toward the boards to play the puck, this is not a case of a player turning immediately prior to contact that turns a legal hit to an illegal one. From the moment Bennett hits the faceoff dot, he sees nothing but Coleman’s numbers. With ample time to make a better decision, the onus is on Bennett to deliver this hit in a legal fashion, avoid it entirely or at the very least minimize its force. Instead, he drives directly through Coleman’s back with speed, driving him forcefully into the boards.
Coleman did not suffer a serious injury on the play and Bennett has not been fined or suspended previously, which helped keep the punishment to just one game. Still, the Panthers will be without a player that is playing arguably the best hockey of his career right now. Bennett scored six goals and 15 points in ten regular season games after the trade to Florida at the deadline, and added two assists last night. Always known as a playoff performer, he will have to sit down and watch the team try to even the series tomorrow night.