The Kings breathed a collective sigh of relief Friday. Anze Kopitar
, leveled by a big hit from Dallas’ Brenden Morrow the night before, appeared to be (relatively) fine and isn’t expected to miss any further game action.
That didn’t mean, however, that teammate Mike Richards
was pleased with the way the entire situation was handled.
Kopitar, who missed the final eight-plus minutes of regulation, plus overtime and the shootout, after the hit, talked with reporters Friday morning and said he felt "fine." The Kings opted for an off-ice workout rather than an on-ice practice, but Kopitar indicated that he would be able to play Saturday in Calgary.
"I feel good so I don’t see a reason why not," Kopitar said. "The bottom line is, I feel good, I don’t have any issues, and that’s good."
Richards, though, was left with a sour taste. Immediately after the hit on Kopitar, Richards jumped on Morrow and the two fought. Both players received fighting majors, but Richards also got a two-minute instigating penalty, a two-minute unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty and a 10-minute misconduct penalty.
The extra penalties were due to the fact that Richards wears a visor. Any player who wears a visor, and is deemed to have instigated a fight, gets the extra minor penalty and misconduct penalty. That didn’t sit well with Richards. He disagreed with the instigator call, specifically, and in general with the visor rule that forced him to sit out the rest of the third period.
"I didn’t think it was an instigator," Richards said. "I thought we dropped our gloves at the exact same time. I asked him to fight, he said yes and we dropped our gloves. I’ve never been called for an instigator before, and especially not an instigator for fighting with a visor. I think the most frustrating thing is, if the NHL is trying to get us to wear visors, and then we get penalized for fighting with them, I think it kind of defeats the purpose."
Some hockey pundits, and management members, have argued that the league should eliminate the instigator rule completely, and allow players to stand up for teammates without the type of "staged" fights that are also decried in the NHL.
"I think (Toronto general manager) Brian Burke said in, in an article last week, about how the smaller -- I don’t know the exact words he used -- I think he said `rats,’ but how the smaller guys are starting to take over the league," Richards said. "You make a hit like that -- not that Morrow didn’t defend himself, because he’s a tough guy and probably got the better side of me on that -- and then we’re down four minutes at a key part of the game. If I get four minutes after that, and put the team down, you’re probably going to think twice about it (next time).
"It’s a touchy subject. It’s something that I don’t think us, as players, totally understand what they want. If you’re going to give a guy a four-minute penalty for sticking up for teammates, I think that’s the wrong way."
Richards said he could not remember previously receiving a misconduct penalty for fighting while wearing a visor.
"I can’t remember ever getting an instigator," Richards said. "On plays like that, it’s usually a two-minute roughing or something like that. But the refs are there to call what they see. They made the right calls. You can’t argue with that. I just think it’s a dumb rule in place."
Kings coach Darryl Sutter said he didn’t have a strong opinion about the visor rule, or whether the instigator penalty should be removed.
"That is sort of a funny rule," Sutter said. "The one penalty that you still deem as a good penalty is protecting your teammates. With that heavyweight (enforcer) thing going away in the league, guys with heart and character have always been guys that have protected their teammates. Without saying it is grandfathered in, there aren’t too many kids coming up who don’t wear visors, right? So it may be a rule that has gone past its time. It’s probably something that they should look at, when you look at it."