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NHL suspends Smith for head hit

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – Rookie defenseman Brendan Smith learned this morning that he has been suspended for eight games by the NHL for an illegal hit to the head of Blackhawks forward Ben Smith during last Wednesday’s preseason game in Chicago.

Brendan Smith will miss the remaining three preseason games and the first five NHL regular-season games. However, Smith, who likely will begin the season in Grand Rapids, will not have to serve his suspension in the AHL.

“I thought it was a little extreme, to tell you the truth,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I still believe that when you’re a left-handed guy and you’re chasing a guy and you put your stick on the puck – so stick-on-stick and body-on-body – and the guy pulls back, he has some responsibility in this area as well.”

Brendan Smith’s hit occurred at 5:26 of the third period, injuring the Blackhawks’ Smith, who laid motionless on the ice immediately following the collision just inside the offensive zone blue line.

Smith’s punishment is the eighth suspension levied by former Red Wings forward – turned NHL’s senior vice president of player safety – Brendan Shanahan.

Only Columbus defenseman James Wisniewski, whose blindside hit to the head of Minnesota’s Cal Clutterbuck, received a larger judgment than the Wings’ Smith. For violating Rule 48.1, Wisniewski was slapped with an eight-game suspension, which begins at the start of the regular-season. He was also suspended for the remainder of the preseason.

Shanahan has also suspended Philadelphia forward Jody Shelley (5), Anaheim forward Jean-Francois Jacques (5), Minnesota forward Brad Staubitz (3), Philadelphia forward Tom Sestito (2), Calgary forward Pierre-Luc Letourneau (1), and Buffalo forward Brad Boyes, who was suspended for only two preseason games.

The Wings did not lobby, nor did they ask for, fewer games to Smith’s suspension, Babcock said.

“Obviously, Shanny has taken this real serious,” Babcock said. “But there’s going to be an evolution in this too, and we understand that. It’s just like when you have a new rule, it takes players awhile to adapt. I think they’re trying to do what they think it right. So we didn’t offer an opinion.”
Still, Babcock believes that the puck-carrier, including the Blackhawks’ Smith in this case, needs to be just as responsible for the collision.

“I think we better not take the onus off the puck-carrier,” Babcock said. “When you step back and try to slide around a guy, and the guy is trying to hit you, and you jump back into it, Whoa!

“In saying that, we are not condoning anyone getting hit in the head with someone’s shoulder or any of that. They’re a work-in-progress at the league, trying to figure all of this out. And we’re trying to protect the players, so (Smith) will learn from it and move on.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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