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Suspend him or not: Abdelkader flattens Barkov with open-ice hit

Jared Clinton
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Justin Abdelkader hits Aleksander Barkov (via YouTube/Sportsnet) Author: The Hockey News

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Suspend him or not: Abdelkader flattens Barkov with open-ice hit

Jared Clinton
By:

Red Wings winger Justin Abedelkader bowled over Panthers center Aleksander Barkov with an open-ice hit that forced him out of Monday’s game and has him out of the lineup Tuesday. No penalty was called on the play, but Abdelkader could be facing supplemental discipline.

The Red Wings’ Justin Abdelkader hasn’t been suspended in nearly three seasons, but the 28-year-old winger could be missing an upcoming game or two after he delivered a check to Aleksander Barkov that knocked the Panthers center out of Monday’s game and will see him sidelined Tuesday in Buffalo.

Abdelkader’s check on Barkov came roughly seven minutes into the second period. Barkov collected a loose puck in the right wing corner of Florida’s zone and was attempting to turn it up ice when Abdelkader delivered a solid jolt that sent Barkov to the ice. Barkov remained down for a brief moment before climbing to his feet and skating towards the Florida bench:

Barkov left Monday’s game following the hit and did not return, and the Miami Herald’s George Richards reported that when Barkov will make his return to the lineup isn’t known, but he will miss Tuesday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres.

The difficult thing about Abdelkader’s hit is that it seems to fall perfectly in on the line between what could be a suspendable hit and one that the league will deem not worthy of supplemental discipline. This won’t be an easy one for the league to decide on, and, regardless of the decision, there are going to be those upset with the Department of Player Safety’s decision.

When Abdelkader delivers the hit, his elbow is tucked, his skates are on the ice and though his legs do extend upwards, it’s not in a motion so as to drive up and through Barkov. Additionally, what could help Abdelkader avoid discipline is that Barkov’s head is lowered as he reaches to poke the puck away.

It’s not going to help Abdelkader’s cause, though, that Barkov’s head was the main point of contact. Whether trying to avoid Barkov’s head or not, Abdelkader caught Barkov right on the chin with a shoulder check.

“Obviously, not trying to hit him in the head or contact him that way,” Abdelkader told MLive.com post-game. “I thought my feet were down and I followed through through his body. Sometimes those hits can change momentum. Hopefully’s he’s all right — I don’t think he returned, but hopefully he’s all right.”

It’s no surprise the Panthers didn’t agree with Abdelkader’s assessment of the check. Florida coach Gerrard Gallant told Richards he believed it was a cheap shot and that Abdelkader “left his feet a little bit.” Panthers center Nick Bjugstad agreed.

"It was a cheap hit, I don't know how the ref didn't call it," Bjugstad told Richards. "It was frustrating, the whole bench felt that way. We're not happy with it. It turned the game around. Barkov has tough shoes to fill. It looked pretty serious. We'll see how the league handles it and I think they will. I just don't know how it wasn't handled on the ice.”

Abdelkader has only been suspended once in his career, but that came in May 2013. Abdelkader was given a two-game ban in the playoffs for charging on then-Anaheim Ducks defenseman Toni Lydman. Abdelkader’s suspension history, and the injury to Barkov, will only be taken into account should the league deem the hit a suspendable offense.

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Suspend him or not: Abdelkader flattens Barkov with open-ice hit