TAMPA — Niklas Kronwall, the Red Wings' top defenseman, was suspended for tonight's Game 7 against the Lightning for charging RW Nikita Kucherov in Monday's Game 6.
Kronwall logged more than 23 minutes in each of the last four games.
The NHL's Player Safety Department announced the decision Tuesday evening, There was no penalty called when Kronwall left his feet and hit Kucherov's head with his forearm late in the second period, knocking him to the ice, and dislodging his helmet. In a video explanation, NHL Player Safety Department stated that supplemental discipline was warranted due to the force with which the hit was delivered, and the "significant head contact that resulted from Kronwall launching" into Kucherov. Red Wings coach Mike Babcock was surprised Kronwall even had a disciplinary hearing, and general manager Ken Holland told reporters he disagreed with the decision.
Kronwall hadn't been fined or suspended in his 11-year- NHL career until Tuesday. Kucherov, who remained in the game, didn't appear to take issue with the hit, saying it's part of the game. He'll be in the lineup tonight.
"It's hockey, I'm not here to judge," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said before the decision. "Kronwall is a really good player, he hits hard. The big thing out of this whole thing is Kuch is going to be fine, that's all that really matters."
STAMKOS STILL SHUT OUT: C Steven Stamkos had his third assist of the series Monday night but has yet to score a goal, extending his playoff drought to nine games. He was second in the league with 43 regular-season goals and said he's had some good looks in the postseason.
"You look at the last game, I had a wide-open net there," Stamkos said. "The puck just takes a hop. That's the way it goes. That's when you get tested mentally, physically. You have to go through some adversity. Hopefully this is the time."
MRAZEK'S SAVE: Detroit G Petr Mrazek came up with one of the top plays of the season in Game 6 with a stick save to rob C Brian Boyle at what appeared to be an open net. Boyle said he saw the highlight a few times but quickly moved on.
"I just didn't expect him to bite that hard, I guess — that's why I tried to put it in the air. …" Boyle said. "He bit, which I guess was a nice move for me. It was a (heck) of a save by the kid. Nothing I could do."
Said Mrazek: "It's a lucky save."
FIRST GOAL: The Lightning jumped ahead in Game 6 by finding a way to break Detroit's pressure in the neutral zone — pass the puck through it.
D Victor Hedman's stretch pass from his own zone found Kucherov at Detroit's blueline and led to Johnson's first goal. The Lightning had worked on the play previously but not enough to tip it off to the Red Wings.
"I'm pretty sure they're going to look at the tape and see that play," Hedman said. "You just have to find those plays that you can make when seams open up. That was obviously a big goal for us. It kind of caught them off-guard a little bit."