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Welcome to the Dwork On Sports blog. This is a place where I’ll cover all things related to South Florida sports, with a steady combination of facts and opinions while ultimately keeping a close eye on anything and everything related to our local teams.
The Florida Panthers are considered by many as the NHL’s darling team this season.
The youthful Cats have been one of the league’s best teams for the past couple months and currently hold a six point lead in the Atlantic Division.
The team was not happy on Monday night following it’s 3-0 loss in Detroit, though the anger had more to do with a hit to center Aleksander Barkov’s head than the result of the game.
Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader caught Barkov square in the head, injuring the 20-year-old and sending him to Florida’s locker room for the remainder of the evening.
The only penalty called on the play was to Panthers defenseman Alex Petrovic, who got two minutes for cross-checking Abdelkader after the hit to Barkov.
Now the Panthers have sent Barkov back to South Florida while the rest of the team moves on to Buffalo for a Tuesday night tilt with the Sabres.
Florida is saying Barkov has an upper-body injury.
Several members of the Panthers were beyond angry with the hit and the fact that there was no penalty called.
“It was a cheap hit, I don’t know how the ref didn’t call it,” Nick Bjugstad told CBS4’ news partner The Miami Herald after the game. “It was frustrating, the whole bench felt that way. We’re not happy with it. It turned the game around. Barkov has tough shoes to fill. It looked pretty serious. We’ll see how the league handles it and I think they will. I just don’t know how it wasn’t handled on the ice.”
Not so fast Nick. The league decided that the hit wasn’t worth a hearing for Abdelkader, essentially ending any hopes for repercussions for the “cheap” hit (as Bjugstad and Panthers coach Gerard Gallant put it).
NHL Rule 48.1 declares an illegal check to the head as “a hit resulting in contact with an opponent’s head where the head was the main point of contact and such contact to the head was avoidable.”
Here’s the video…you be the judge.
After the Panthers face Buffalo, the team heads back to South Florida where it begins a 5-game homestand on Friday against the St. Louis Blues.
It’s unknown whether Barkov will be available for the Blues game, but some encouraging news was tweeted by the Herald’s Panthers beat writer George Richards.
Barkov missed 10 games with a broken hand in early November and Florida came away with a meager 4-4-2 record in those contests.
Last month Florida’s star defenseman Aaron Ekblad was the victim of an illegal check by Edmonton Oilers’ forward Matt Hendricks.
No penalty was called on that play either, but Hendricks was later suspended three games by the NHL for what the league deemed an illegal boarding hit.
Ekblad missed four games due to the hit and Florida lost all four.