BOSTON – The biggest question about Nazem Kadri’s uncertain status in this first-round series isn’t whether his charging ejection warrants a suspension.
It ought to be: Will the NHL’s department of player safety decide to sit him down for more than just Game 2?
Kadri put himself on the radar of the league’s disciplinary arm after hammering Tommy Wingels while the Boston Bruins winger was in a prone position on Thursday night. He received a major for charging and game misconduct at 8:18 of the third period and offered only a half-hearted explanation for his actions following a 5-1 loss by his Toronto Maple Leafs.
"Well initially, I just felt like he made contact with [linemate Mitch Marner’s] head to start and I didn’t see a call there," said Kadri. "He was turning up the wall, so I was going for the hit and he ended up falling. I mean it happened pretty quick. I think he was reaching for the puck, I haven’t really watched it yet.
"But I don’t think I stuck my leg out or my arm out or whatever the case is, but it’s in the hands of the NHL at this point."
Wingels was knocked out of the game and was said to be "under evaluation" by the Bruins. He was basically on his knees with his back to the play when the hit was delivered, and Kadri’s skates appeared to leave the ice on contact.
The veteran Leafs centre won’t be helped by his past.
He’s forfeited nearly $400,000 in salary during his career because of three suspensions, two diving fines and a throat-slashing gesture fine. The hit also comes on the heels of a one-game suspension to Los Angeles Kings defenceman Drew Doughty for a head shot he delivered Wednesday – a sign that first-year disciplinarian George Parros won’t be turning a blind eye during the playoffs.
That’s not good news for either the Leafs or Kadri, who is routinely deployed in defensive situations by Mike Babcock but still managed to crack 30 goals this season as the lynchpin on a highly effective power-play unit.
Despite the likelihood of a suspension, he didn’t express any remorse about his decision-making on the Wingels hit.
"I don’t think I can wrap myself too much," said Kadri. "Like I said, it’s out of my control at this point. I certainly wasn’t trying to hit him when he was down like that. I was already committed to the hit. I knew he was turning up the half-wall and if he’s still standing up I think there’s nothing wrong with that, but he ended up falling and reaching for the puck.
"I’m not sure what happened after that."
Neither Babcock nor Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy weighed in on whether Kadri should be suspended, but the Leafs coach spoke about the importance of maintaining composure in games with so little margin for error: "Bottom line is you’ve always got to be disciplined at all times. I think emotion is real important in the game, but it’s got to be controlled."
Game 2 goes Saturday night at TD Garden.