Nazem Kadri’s head shot on Justin Faulk could send shockwaves through the playoffs for the Colorado Avalanche and the rest of the Stanley Cup contenders.
Kadri was suspended indefinitely Thursday pending a video hearing with the league’s department of player safety for his illegal check to the head of St. Louis defenseman Justin Faulk in Game 2 of the teams’ playoff series.
Kadri already has five career suspensions, including three in the postseason alone over the past five seasons. He could miss substantial time for Colorado, which was the NHL’s top team during the regular season and a popular pick to win the Cup for the first time since 2001.
“A guy like Kadri guy can’t control himself,” Blues forward Brayden Schenn said after the Avalanche’s victory Wednesday night put them up 2-0 in the series. “In the playoffs he’s a repeat offender — bad hits, greasy hits, got a guy in a vulnerable position and he picks nothing but the head.”
Two years ago, Kadri was suspended for the rest of Toronto’s series against Boston for cross-checking, a punishment that ended up being five games. Offering a video hearing instead of a call allows the league’s department of player safety to suspend Kadri more than five games, which would leave Colorado without him against Vegas or Minnesota if they advance.
“I’m not happy about it,” coach Jared Bednar said Thursday. “Naz comes and gets physical. You can see it on the tape that he catches him high.”
Kadri clipped Faulk in the head with his right elbow midway through the third period. Faulk left the game, and Kadri was thrown out with a match penalty. Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly called it a dangerous hit that was “completely uncalled for.”
Kadri has three previous playoff suspensions on his record in addition to a four-game ban late in the regular season in 2015 for an illegal check to the head. Kadri was suspended four games for cross-checking in 2016, three games for boarding in 2018 and then the punishment in 2019, which was the last the Maple Leafs needed to see before trading him to Colorado.
The Avalanche acquired Kadri to help their secondary scoring and add some grit to a skilled lineup led by Nathan MacKinnon.
That combination helped Colorado reach the second round of the 2020 bubble playoffs with Kadri as a dominant offensive force. He put up nine goals and nine assists in 15 games before goaltending injuries derailed the Avalanche.
“We need Nazem,” Bednar said. “It’s not something that we want to be doing all the time, that’s for sure. Especially now, because we could lose our No. 2 center and someone else has to fill those shoes.”
Game 3 is Friday night in St. Louis (9:30 p.m. ET, USA Network). Bednar expects trade deadline pickup Carl Soderberg to step in for Kadri.
CAPITALS at BRUINS, Boston leads series 2-1 (6:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network)
Bruins fans have a new foil in their series against the Capitals: former Boston captain Zdeno Chara, who left to join the Capitals to maintain a regular role in the NHL. Chara played his first playoff game in Boston as a visitor on Wednesday night after 73 with the Bruins.
It didn’t take long — not even seven minutes in — for the limited-capacity crowd to cheer against Chara when he took a slashing penalty.
“They’re loyal to the crest, and he’s wearing a different crest,” coach Bruce Cassidy said “He’s in a Caps crest now, and that’s the enemy.”
Newcomer Craig Smith, a free agent signing last offseason, scored the overtime winner for Boston after Washington goaltender Ilya Samsonov and defenseman Justin Schultz miscommunicated behind the net. Samsonov, who was making his NHL playoff debut in the aftermath of a two-week COVID protocol absence, was noticeably down.
“Sometimes we have a bad situation behind the net,” he said Thursday. “But we fix it this (time) and will be better next time, more communication with more talking. So we’ll (be) better.”
HURRICANES at PREDATORS, Carolina leads series 2-0 (7 p.m. ET, USA)
The Nashville Predators hope being back in “Smashville” can turn their series around before it’s too late. They’ve never been swept in franchise history, though the opening two games gave little indication they can hang with the Central Division champion Hurricanes.
Nashville went 0 for 7 on the power play in a 3-0 loss in Game 2 and are 0 for 10 in the series.
Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said he couldn’t say enough about his penalty killers, especially defensemen Brett Pesce and Brady Skjei who played long minutes with Jaccob Slavin out with a lower-body injury.
“Just incredible really performances by those guys,” Brind’Amour said.
Nashville has expanded capacity inside Bridgestone Arena to 12,135. The Predators hope those loud fans can give them an edge they didn’t have in Carolina.
“Playing at Bridgestone in the playoffs is always fun,” Nashville captain Roman Josi said. “With the amount of fans we’re going to have, it’s definitely going to give us an extra boost. And yeah, it’s playoff hockey. There’s not a lot of margin for error.”
JETS at OILERS, Winnipeg leads series 1-0 (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN)
After getting goals from unlikely scorers Tucker Poolman and Dominic Toninato in Game 1 to take the series lead, the Jets are trying to stay even-keeled against league-leading scorer Connor McDavid and Edmonton. McDavid and reigning MVP Leon Draisaitl were held off the scoresheet in the series opener, and that’s not likely to continue.
As for what Winnipeg expects in Game 2? A need for speed.
“We have to be aware that this game will be quite a bit faster,” coach Paul Maurice said. “Even with the hitting, there was a feeling out process and it got slow at times, it got kind of patient at times. I think tomorrow night is gonna be very, very fast.”
AP Sports Writers Pat Graham, Jimmy Golen and Teresa M. Walker contributed.
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno
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