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Canucks centre Kesler calls for lengthy suspension to Boulerice

NHL.com @NHL

VANCOUVER -Canucks centre Ryan Kesler is calling for Philadelphia Flyers enforcer Jesse Boulerice to receive a 20-game suspension for cross-checking him in the head.

Boulerice, 29, faces an automatic review by NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell after he received a match penalty and game misconduct for the incident in the third period of Philadelphia's 8-2 victory in Vancouver on Wednesday night.

Kesler said the punishment should be on par with the 20-game NHL suspension that Flyers rookie Steve Downie, now in the minors, received for leaving his feet and delivering a shoulder to the head of Ottawa's Dean McAmmond in the pre-season.

The hit, which left the Senators forward with a concussion, prompted the AHL to suspend Downie for the first month of the season.

"(League officials) have to do something severe enough to scare guys from doing that," said Kesler.

The 23-year-old centre practised Thursday and expects to play Friday when the Canucks face the Oilers in Edmonton. The swelling in Kesler's right lip and jaw had subsided, but he still had some red marks on his face.

He did not receive an X-ray and had no plans to get one.

"I didn't see him coming and he just took my head off," said Kesler. "I think he has a reputation of doing that, so we'll see what happens."

Boulerice, 29, ran into legal troubles for his on-ice actions almost a decade ago. Playing for the Plymouth Whalers, he was charged with assault to do great bodily harm less than murder after hitting Andrew Long of the Guelph Storm during the OHL final in 1998.

"Until (NHL officials) suspend someone for a serious amount of games, I think it's going to continue to happen," said Kesler. "They're going to give him what they see fit. I really have no say in it."

The incident renewed debate within the Canucks dressing room about violence in hockey after Downie's suspension was supposed to send a message to all players to avoid giving shots to the head.

Canucks winger Matt Cooke said Boulerice should receive a 25-game suspension, because the incident was similar to New York Islander winger Chris Simon's attack on New York Ranger Ryan Hollweg last March in the playoffs. Simon was banished for 25 games and the rest of the post-season for his two-handed stick attack on Hollweg's face.

"It's not just a head shot," said Cooke. "It's a stick to the head. It could be even worse, especially with the history of the player."

Campbell must now decide whether Boulerice's OHL conduct should be considered. Commissioner Gary Bettman has indicated the league will be more mindful of a player's on-ice history when doling out punishment.

"He was suspended and banned from the OHL because he put a kid (Long) in critical condition fighting for his life because he hit a guy in the head with his stick," said Cooke, who was with the OHL's Windsor Spitfires at the time and saw a replay of the incident.

Cooke said the league and players are trying to curb such infractions. He believes they result in part because young players have developed a sense of invincibility while wearing full facemasks and visors.

"But at the end of the day, it comes down to the individual having respect for the game and respect for the other players," Cooke said.

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault believes the league should have no choice but to hand out a lengthy suspension after trying to explain in the off-season what types of incidents should be avoided.

"They sent a tape out to every team saying what's acceptable and what's not acceptable," said Vigneault. "What we saw last night is definitely something that's not acceptable."

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