I wonder what the game plan was for Tom Sestito on Wednesday.
The 29-year-old, who has 10 goals, 20 points and 475 penalty minutes in 149 NHL games, was called up to the Penguins roster 10 hours before game time. With the AHL’s Wilkes-Barre Scranton this season, Sestito has lit it up with 16 points and 121 penalty minutes (third in the league) in just 33 games.
So the 6-foot-5, 228-pounder dressed and made his return to the NHL lineup for the first time since Nov. 16, when he picked up a healthy 10 penalty minutes in under five minutes of ice time against Washington. In Winnipeg on Wednesday, he bettered that PIM/60 rate.
The tone of this game was set early, when Evgeni Malkin and Blake Wheeler dropped the gloves to settle a score from the previous game. This sure seems to have been a factor in Sestito’s return to the lineup, as he proceeded to drop the gloves with Chris Thorburn off the very next draw to earn his first five minutes of the game, after only two seconds of ice time.
But wait, there’s more.
Just 9:35 later, on his third shift of the game, Sestito muscled up again and senselessly obliterated five-foot-10 Tobias Enstrom with a board-shaking hit-from-behind (see at the top). Jets head coach Paul Maurice said after the game that Enstrom has been hospitalized and is being checked for facial fractures.
“There’s no cost to them doing that,” Maurice said of the Penguins’ decision to call up Sestito. “We’re going to lose a good defenceman for a while.”
When asked about what he thought of Pittsburgh’s pregame decision, Maurice was quick to respond:
“Well, he wasn’t called up to dangle.”
Sestito earned a five-minute penalty and a game misconduct for the hit, earning a 20-penalty minute total on the game sheet. It capped his game at three shifts, 1:02 of ice time, no shots and 20 PIMs.
(We should note his second shift was with Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin and he got a plus for having a skate while Malkin scored.)
The hit on Enstrom will surely at least get a review from the league, and it wouldn’t be surprising for them to suspend him quickly, considering his role, history, reputation — and the fact he was likely on the next bus back to the farm anyway.
“He’s a guy that brings a physical element to our team,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said after his club’s 7-4 win. “He has the ability to create some anxiety and he has the ability, I think, to give our players a certain comfort level when they’re on the ice.”
So while we usually ask whether or not Sestito should be suspended or fined for his actions, considering the circumstances, what about the coach?