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Panthers' Booth leaves game after check to head @NHLdotcom

MONTREAL (AP) -David Booth's latest blow to the head appears to have been less damaging than the devastating - and rule-changing - blindside hit he was dealt by Philadelphia's Mike Richards earlier this season.

Booth was to spend Thursday night in a Montreal hospital for precautionary reasons after he left Florida's 4-1 loss to the Canadiens when he was flattened by Jaroslav Spacek's open-ice shoulder check to the head early in the second period.

"He's coherent, he's alert - the tests have come back negative, in a positive sense, so to speak," said Panthers GM Randy Sexton, who expects that Booth will be able to travel with the team to Ottawa on Friday.

Booth, who missed 45 games after he sustained a concussion on Richards' blindside hit in Philadelphia on Oct. 24, lay face down on the ice after Spacek's hit 1:10 into the second and trainer Dave Zenobi was immediately summoned to attend to him. A bloodstain remained on the ice after Booth was helped off the ice to the dressing room.

"I think he was just looking back to grab the puck," Panthers right wing Nathan Horton said. "It wasn't a dirty hit, I don't think, but it was just a tough one. He kind of surprised him in stepping up and it was just unfortunate. We don't really know what happened but we hope for the best and hopefully it's not too bad."

Booth was taken to hospital as a precaution after he was examined by Canadiens physician Dr. David Mulder.

"I know he missed half of the season already so it's really tough to see the guy go down like that," said Spacek, who delivered the check head-on.

No penalty was called on the play.

"He was coming and there was a kind of scramble and he tried to reach for the puck," Spacek said. "He was kind of low and when he turned I was standing right there and basically he just ran at me. I almost tried to kind of go away from him and I just hit him on the bad spot."

Richards' unpunished hit on Booth spurred a discussion about the need to tighten rules about blows to the head, a season-long dialogue that heated up when Boston's Marc Savard was sidelined by a similar unpenalized blindside hit by Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke.

Earlier Thursday, the executive board of the players' union voted to accept a new temporary rule that will ban hits to the head against unsuspecting players. The decision took effect immediately, starting with the 11 games Thursday night.

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