BUFFALO, N.Y. – It takes a lot to get 6-foot-4 Jonathan Ericsson steamed.
But when Darren Helm, who has a history of concussions, had his head bounced off the glass by a hit from behind, the usually mild-mannered Ericsson wasn’t about to idly standby Friday night.
“I knew it was Helmer, he was a guy that I least want this to happen,” Ericsson said.
Ericsson went after the offender with the ferocity of a middle linebacker, tackling Los Angeles forward Jordan Nolan for his questionable hit on a defenseless Helm inside the Kings’ zone.
“I thought that should’ve been a game (misconduct) for that hit and that’s why I did what I did,” Ericsson said. “I thought it was a really bad hit.”
Nolan received a two-minute minor penalty for boarding, but on Sunday, the league’s Department of Player Safety slapped the 25-year-old son of Sabres head coach and former Red Wings center Ted Nolan with a two-game suspension without pay.
Under terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Nolan is considered a repeat offender. He was suspended one game for sucker punching Edmonton's Jesse Joensuu last March. Based on Nolan’s average annual salary, he will forfeit $17,073.18. The money goes to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.
There have been four suspensions, totaling 12 games, and one fine (Boston’s Milan Lucic) so far this season, totaling $163,586.76 in lost pay. Others players suspended this season have been Vancouver forward Alex Burrows (three games), Rangers defenseman John Moore (five games) and San Jose forward John Scott (two games).
Fortunately, Helm wasn’t injured on the play, which occurred at 3:53 of the third period. But injuries, including concussions, have followed Helm throughout his relatively short career.
While he wasn’t thrilled by the hit from behind, he was ecstatic by Ericsson’s rush to defend him.
“I loved it. You hope that guys are you going to stick up for you and when you see that you know it’s going to happen on a regular basis,” said Helm, who has four assists with a minus-2 rating in 10 games. “It was great to see him do that (and) I have a lot of respect for guys who stick up for their teammates.”
Ericsson doesn’t think Nolan intentionally tried to hurt Helm, but at the same time, the Wings’ defenseman says there’s no room for avoidable hits from behind.
“That hit doesn’t belong in the game,” Ericsson said. “I don’t know what (Nolan) was thinking but I don’t think he wants people to run him like that. It’s a dangerous play, lucky enough Helmer was close enough to the boards so he doesn’t go down with his head first. I just don’t think that hit belongs in the game.”
FAST BREAK: Trying to explain the recent success of the Red Wings’ power play, Ericsson used an analogy straight from the hardwood.
“I don’t think they’ve looked bad but (Friday) they seemed like they looked phenomenal out there,” Ericsson said. “The puck movement was unbelievable, like watching a Globetrotters basketball game. We feel good about our group and its going to be a tight schedule here coming up with games but I think we should be fine.”
The power play is 3-for-9 in the past two games, both wins at Washington (4-2) and against Los Angeles (5-2). Detroit is 3-0-1 when the power play produces a goal this season.
FRANZEN’S RETURN: Johan Franzen
Right Wing - DET
Goals: 2 | Assists: 3 | Pts: 5
Shots: 7 | +/-: 1
is expected to play Sunday in Buffalo. The 6-foot-3 power forward has missed the last six games with a groin injury.
“Feels good. Lot of energy right now,” Franzen said. “Hopefully that stays in my body longer than one period.”
Franzen is excited for Sunday’s chance to skate on Helm’s line opposite Gustav Nyquist.
“It sounds like speed so they can help me with that,” Franzen said. “I hope Nykie stays hot. I hope I don’t cool him down.”
Franzen, who has two goals and five points in four games this season, has produced four goals and nine points in 12 career games against the Sabres.