Upon first glance, the hit appeared accidental with Gudas seemingly leaving his feet in an attempt to avoid a collision. However, with Gudas’s history of questionable plays—he has been suspended three times for a total of 19 games since 2015—it has some, including Palmieri, thinking there was some intent on his part.
“After certain events and a certain history, you lose the benefit of the doubt of saying it was an accident,” Palmieri told reporters following the game. “His history speaks for itself. I know it’s a fast game, stuff happens out there, but like I said, you lose the benefit of the doubt after a couple incidents and reckless plays.”
The league has yet to make a decision on whether Gudas deserves extra punishment, but it wouldn’t surprise Palmieri if that’s what the NHL’s department of player safety decides to do.
“It’s not my decision to make, but it seems more than likely that he’s run out of second chances,” Palmieri added.
Palmieri, who was celebrating his 27th birthday, was shaken up and assessed by medical staff but was able to return to the game. He finished the contest with a goal and an assist in 16:43 of ice-time and the Devils won 4-3 in regulation.
“I was getting out of the way of [Wayne Simmonds], and all of a sudden [Palmieri] showed up in the middle there,” Gudas explained. “I didn’t see him at all. I was just trying to get back to my position.”
Gudas was assessed an interference minor and on his next shift he ate some right hands as his comeuppance courtesy of Devils forward Travis Zajac as the two dropped the gloves and were handed five minutes each for fighting.
“It’s avoidable. Maybe not avoidable, but there’s ways you can maybe soften that blow,” Zajac said of the hit. “I don’t think you have to jump at the guy, first of all. It is what it is. It is hockey. It is quick. [Palmieri] is tough, so he’s going to get back up.”
Gudas, despite his reputation, had not registered any penalty minutes in 21 consecutive games dating back to Nov. 16 when he was assessed a major penalty and game misconduct for a slash he delivered to back of Winnipeg Jets forward Mathieu Perreault’s head.
“He apologized in the penalty box, but when you look at the replay it looks like he did it on purpose,” Perreault told reporters after that game. “It wasn’t an accident. I think he’s been known for doing stuff like that. I certainly don’t appreciate it but I’m sure the league will take care of it.”
The league did take care of it in the form of a 10-game suspension.
It’s unclear at this time whether or not Gudas’s hit on Palmieri will result in any supplemental discipline, be it a fine or another suspension.