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Did the punishment fit Weber's crime?

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Henrik Zetterberg celebrates his power-play goal in Wednesday's 3-2 loss to the Predators. (Photo by Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The NHL’s decision to fine – and not suspend – Nashville defenseman Shea Weber for his behavior that left Red Wings center Henrik Zetterberg crumpled in a heap on the ice at the end of Game 1 stirred plenty of emotion Thursday afternoon at Bridgestone Arena.

Zetterberg, who was the target of Weber’s anger, called the move, which drove the Swedish center’s face into the glass and caused two cracks in his helmet as time expired, shameful.

“I thought it was dirty,” Zetterberg said. “I think it was directed toward my head and if you look at what’s happened over the last few years with all of the head injuries I think that shouldn’t belong in the game.”

Former Wings forward Brendan Shanahan, now the league’s disciplinary czar, called the move “reckless and reactionary”. And Weber himself said he was glad that Zetterberg wasn’t injured, but “now we can focus on Game 2.”

The Western Conference quarterfinal resumes Friday in Nashville with the Predators holding a 1-0 series after handing the Wings a 3-2 loss in Game 1. Friday’s game is at 7:30 p.m. EDT.

Meanwhile, Wings coach Mike Babcock went for a run to forget about the aftermath of Wednesday’s postgame shenanigans, and would only say, “I worked out with the strength coach, then I ran and burned off any kind of ill feeling I could possibly have. I moved on.”

At the conclusion of the game, Weber retaliated for a hit from Zetterberg as the two players battled for the puck in the corner. Weber then took a roundhouse swing at the back of Zetterberg’s head, but appeared to miss. The defenseman then grabbed Zetterberg by the back of the helmet and slammed him into the glass face first.

“You know, like I said six times already, it’s a quick game and things happen, it’s an emotional game, just thankful that he’s not hurt and now we can move forward,” Weber said. “We were undisciplined. We didn’t take a lot of penalties during the year, and if we’re going to win this series we got to be a lot more disciplined and I think you’re going to see that out of us tomorrow.”

Yet the Predators’ sentiment came in question Thursday when at the end of practice forward Andrei Kostitsyn re-enacted the incident, grabbing the back of Weber’s head and playfully pushing his face into the glass as the two shared a laugh.
Nashville's Shea Weber talks to the media about Wednesday's incident involving Henrik Zetterberg and the NHL fine that followed Thursday for the Predators' defenseman. (Photo by Bill Roose/Detroit Red Wings)

For his dastardly deed, Weber was fined $2,500, which the league said, is the maximum allowed under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Weber was assessed a minor penalty for roughing.

In a statement released by the league, Shanahan said, “As is customary whenever supplemental discipline is being considered, we contacted Detroit following the game and were informed that Zetterberg did not suffer an apparent injury and should be in the lineup for Game 2.

“This play and the fine that addressed it will be significant factors in assessing any incidents involving Shea Weber throughout the remainder of the playoffs.”

Already a forward short when Darren Helm suffered a lacerated forearm in the first period of Game 1, the Wings could least afford to lose another player, especially one of Zetterberg’s caliber to a senseless play.

“I was a little woozy right away when I went down,” he said. “But I came back pretty quick.”

Zetterberg underwent baseline tests following the game for a possible concussion, but doctors ruled that out. Hopefully, Zetterberg doesn’t experience any future signs of post-concussion symptoms, like other league players have recently.

But with that being the case, should the league take a stronger stance by cracking down on those players who deliver illegal shots to an opponent’s head?

“It’s tough to say,” Zetterberg said. “Some people are out for – (Sydney) Crosby was out for like a year from a concussion – so it’s tough to suspend a guy for a year. So it’s a fine line and sometimes it is a tough decision and sometimes it’s not.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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