TAMPA, Fla. – With the verdict less than a day old, Niklas Kronwall was still struggling with how he felt about his one-game suspension levied by the NHL on Tuesday.
“It’s hard to describe,” said Kronwall, who will sit out tonight’s Game 7 of the Eastern Conference first-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The suspension snaps Kronwall’s streak of a 98 straight playoff games, the longest among the current roster.
“I still don’t really know how I feel, to be honest with you,” he said Wednesday. “I still haven’t grasped it. The decision has been made. I got to live with it.”
The suspension stems from Kronwall’s Game 6 hit on Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov. With one minute remaining in the second period, the 21-year-old was flattened by the hit inside the Lightning blue line. As the Tampa Bay forward made a pass from along the right half wall, Kronwall pinched in before delivering a jarring, back-first hit, his left forearm making contact with Kucherov’s face.
In a video produced by the league’s department of player safety concluded that the hit warranted supplemental discipline for charging. According to the video, the decision to suspend was because of the “force to which the hit was delivered and the significant head contact that resulted from Kronwall launching into it.”
Kronwall disagrees, but what’s done is done in his mind.
“At this point it I guess it doesn’t really matter how I feel,” he said. “I think that the feed that I saw I didn’t leave my feet. I disagree with the decision. I feel like it happened a little bit different ways than what they feel, but that’s how it is. I did something that put them in a situation where they can make the final call.”
A devastating body checker, but a player with a squeaky-clean reputation among his peers, Kronwall has delivered numerous big hits throughout his 11 seasons with the Red Wings. All have carried his signature “Kronwalled” trademark, skating back-first into his target before making a spectacular highlight-reel hit.
Tuesday’s league ruling won’t change how Kronwall plays.
“I still want to play an aggressive game and be as physical you can be,” he said. “Those times when you get a chance to step up are pretty far and in between the last few years because guys are becoming more aware. You play the game a little bit different because guys are so good now. … Only time will tell.”
All Kronwall can do now is cheer on his teammates tonight and look forward to being back in the Wings’ lineup for Game 1 of the conference semifinals, which starts Friday in Montreal.
But first things first. The Wings must eliminate the Lightning tonight at Amalie Arena.
“I need to do my best to stay positive, give energy to the guys instead of draining them,” Kronwall said. “We have some work to do. It’s a big game. Go out, enjoy it and make the most of it.”