TORONTO – If the Toronto Maple Leafs are to advance past the Boston Bruins, they’ll have to do so without Nazem Kadri.
Toronto’s third-line centre was suspended for the remainder of the first round by the NHL’s department of player safety Monday evening for delivering a dangerous cross-check to the head of Bruins forward Jake DeBrusk.
Kadri was also assessed a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct for his actions in Saturday’s 4-1 Game 2 loss in Boson.
DeBrusk left the game and said he underwent “a couple tests” but will play Monday.
Kadri’s status as a four-time repeat offender factored into the length of the suspension, specifically his similar cross-check on Detroit’s Luke Glendening on April 2, 2016.
The decision was determined after a lengthy hearing in New York, which both Kadri and Leafs president Brendan Shanahan attended.
“Obviously, any time you put yourself in a situation where someone else gets to decide your future, it’s probably not a good thing in anything you do in life,” head coach Mike Babcock said Monday.
“Naz is a good player and an important guy on our team. It’s just [like] he’s injured — move on.”
William Nylander will assume Kadri’s position in the middle of the third line, between Connor Brown and Patrick Marleau.
“He’s got to play hard,” Babcock said of Nylander. “It’s real simple, the team that played the hardest won Game 1, and the team that played the hardest won Game 2.”
Kadri’s cross-check was in retaliation for a DeBrusk knee-on-knee hit that had gone unpenalized earlier in the game, as well as a borderline check of Marleau near the benches.
“This is not a hockey play. Instead, this is a player retaliating against an opponent by using his stick as a weapon to make forceful and direct head contact,” according to the NHL-released suspension video. “Players are simply not permitted to flagrantly violate league playing rules because they feel the retribution is justified.”
The flexible length of this suspension (between three and five games) is unusual — but not unprecedented — in that typically player safety sets its bans to a fixed number to games, regardless of when it occurs in the playoff series.
The only similar occurrence took place during the 2013 Western Conference semifinals, when San Jose’s Raffi Torres was suspended for the remainder of the series following his illegal Game 1 check on L.A.’s Jarret Stoll.
Kadri was also suspended during the 2018 Leafs-Bruins series for a high, retaliatory hit, on Tommy Wingels, for which he was banned three games.
“Naz is an emotional guy. He plays with his heart on his sleeve. Passionate,” Zach Hyman said. “Sticks up for his teammates. He’s a good teammate.”
Veteran winger Tyler Ennis draws into the lineup and takes Brown’s spot on the fourth line to make up for Kadri’s absence.
Game 3 of the tied series goes Monday night at Scotiabank Arena.