The National Hockey League on Thursday suspended San Jose Sharks forward Raffi Torres for the remainder of the team’s Western Conference semifinal against Los Angeles for a hit against Kings forward Jarret Stoll in Tuesday’s series opener.
Stoll didn't play in Game 2 on Thursday as his teammates skated to a come-from-behind 4-3 victory.
Torres could miss as many as six games should the best-of-seven series go the distance
While playing for Phoenix last season, he received a 21-game suspension, initially 25 games, for a high hit on Chicago star Marian Hossa in the first round of the playoffs.
Torres was suspended for two games in January 2012 for charging Minnesota defenceman Nate Prosser and for four games in April 2011 for a hit to the head of Edmonton's Jordan Eberle while playing for Vancouver.
On Tuesday, Torres hit Stoll at 19:02 of the second period and was assessed a minor penalty for charging, while Stoll didn't return to the game, won 2-0 by L.A. Sharks coach Todd McLellan and captain Joe Thornton echoed Torres's belief that the hit was completely legal.
The NHL's department of player safety sharply disagreed while handing down a fourth suspension for Torres, considered a repeat offender in dangerous hits under the league's collective bargaining agreement. Torres flew to New York for an in-person hearing Thursday.
Stoll was bent forward while trying to play a bouncing puck when Torres approached him from the side for a violent hit. Stoll's head snapped back violently before he fell forward onto the ice.
In an explanatory video released by Brendan Shanahan, the NHL's senior vice-president of player safety, he said Stoll's head was "the principal point of contact" in the hit, creating grounds for suspension. Although Torres initially made contact with Stoll's right shoulder, Shanahan ruled that the shoulder hit was only a glancing blow, as evidenced by the direction both players travelled after the contact.
Kings head coach Darryl Sutter said he thought the hit was "careless." A suspension for Torres wouldn't make him feel better because "our player is quite a bit more important than theirs."
Stoll, the Sharks' veteran third-line centre, is a faceoff specialist and a top penalty-killer with a strong two-way game.
Thanks to the Coyotes' run to the West finals last spring, Torres entered this lockout-shortened season with only eight games to serve from the Hossa incident and returned Feb. 2 against Dallas.
Need for change
"I can’t afford to go through something like that again," Torres told the Arizona Republic in January in reference to the Hossa incident. "There are some things that I’m going to have to change if I want to keep playing in this league at a competitive level. I know I can bring more to the game than just physical play."
Prior to his February return, Torres had planned to meet with the Coyotes coaching staff for a video session in hopes of determining how he can still play a physical game without accruing punishment.
"I think there are some things he can do to make him a better player but maybe make him a little less dangerous player," Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett told the newspaper at the time. "He’s a rugged guy. He plays hard, and that’s how he’s going to have to play."
Torres stayed out of trouble while playing for Phoenix this season, scoring five goals and 12 points in 28 games before joining the Sharks prior to the April 3 trade deadline, his seventh NHL club, with whom he added two goals and six points in 11 contests.
Torres scored once in San Jose's four-game sweep of Vancouver to open these playoffs.
The 31-year-old has scored 134 goals and 121 assists in 630 NHL regular-season games, with 490 penalty minutes.
Originally drafted by the New York Islanders, Torres has also suited up for Edmonton, Columbus and Vancouver.
The Toronto native has been to the Stanley Cup final on two occasions, with the Oilers in 2006 and the Canucks five years later.
Raffi rap sheet
- Suspended for remainder of Round 2 series (potentially six games) for illegal hit against Los Angeles Kings forward Jarret Stoll.
- Suspended 25 games for hit to head against Chicago's Marian Hossa. NHL later reduced banishment to 21 games.
- Suspended two games for leaving skates to hit Minnesota's Nate Prosser in the head.
- Fined $2,500 US after reaching out with shoulder and forearm to hit head of Colorado's Jan Hejda.
- Handed four-game suspension for low-blow hit to the head of Edmonton's Jordan Eberle.
- Fined $2,500 US for blindside hit against Calgary's David Moss.