Coyotes’ Zac Rinaldo sucker punches rookie, sparks brawl vs. Avalanche

Arizona Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche players fight. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

Zac Rinaldo is going to be in some trouble yet again with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.

The Arizona Coyotes forward sucker punched Colorado Avalanche rookie defenceman Samuel Girard Saturday night, which sparked a massive line brawl.

Rinaldo, 27, hit Nathan MacKinnon with an open-ice body check near centre ice midway through the second period of what ended up being a 6-2 Avalanche win. Then a couple seconds later he punched Girard with his bare fist as the 19-year-old skated by.

Girard’s teammates, including MacKinnon, who initially appeared banged up after receiving the hit, immediately went after Rinaldo. Erik Johnson dropped the gloves with Rinaldo while MacKinnon ended up fighting Josh Archibald in the melee. In addition to fighting majors, MacKinnon and Archibald received game misconducts and Rinaldo was given a match penalty. Johnson only received a fighting major and a roughing minor. All told there was 52 minutes in penalties handed out on the play.

Girard was taken off the ice and assessed during a mandatory concussion protocol check and was able to return to the game. The 47th-overall pick from the 2016 draft was acquired by the Avs in early November in the three-team trade between Colorado, Nashville and Ottawa that involved Matt Duchene and Kyle Turris.

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Rinaldo has 672 penalty minutes in 305 career regular-season NHL games to go along with a lengthy history of supplemental discipline. Rinaldo has been suspended by the NHL on four separate occasions since 2012 for a total of 19 games.

On Feb. 13, 2012: Suspended two games for charging Red Wings defenceman Jonathan Ericsson.

On April 7, 2014: Suspended four games for injuring Sabres defenceman Chad Ruhwedel with a hit to the head.

Jan. 26, 2015: Suspended eight games for charging and boarding Pittsburgh Penguins defenceman Kris Letang.

March 1, 2016: Suspended five games for an illegal hit on Lightning forward Cedric Paquette. He was sent down to the AHL before sitting out any NHL games and since he spent the entire 2016-17 campaign with the AHL’s Providence Bruins he did not serve this suspension until October of this year after signing with the Coyotes.

It’s unclear at this time whether or not Rinaldo will face supplemental discipline, however considering he’s a repeat offender it’s hard to imagine the league not suspending him for this latest incident.

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