LAS VEGAS — Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty called his one-game suspension after an illegal check to the head of Vegas Golden Knights forward William Carrier “B.S.” and “awful” before missing Game 2 of their Stanley Cup playoff series on Friday.
“I don’t think it’s suspension-worthy,” Doughty said after participating in the team’s morning skate. “I think it’s B.S., really. I think it’s awful. Watching the games last night, I guess he’s got four or five more [suspensions] to give.”
Doughty delivered the hit midway through the third period Wednesday, as Carrier attempted to move the puck to a teammate in the Kings’ defensive zone and Doughty delivered what the NHL on Thursday called a “high, forceful hit that makes Carrier’s head the main point of contact, on a hit where such head contact was avoidable.” Hence, even though Doughty made initial contact with Carrier’s arm, the Vegas forward’s head was the main point of contact, which meant the hit violated NHL Rule 48 for illegal checks to the head. Carrier didn’t see the ice again after that incident, and there was no penalty called on the play.
“I hope Carrier is OK, I see he’s in the lineup, he’s not injured and he’s OK. I never intended to hit him in the head,” Doughty said. “I don’t think for one second that that is suspension-worthy. In the hearing we came to the conclusion that I did not intend to hit the head. I did get his shoulder, but the thing we didn’t agree on is he didn’t move or alter his position to make him vulnerable for the hit. You can clearly see in the video that he plants on his right leg, going off his left and opens up his left shoulder and tries to jump to the inside and that’s why he ends up in the middle of the ice.”
Kings coach John Stevens agreed with Doughty, saying, “In my opinion Drew Doughty is the best player at his position in the world and he defended that play exactly the way we’d expect him to defend that play … As long as I’m on the earth, I’m going to agree to disagree with that decision.”
Doughty has never been suspended during his previous 770 regular-season and 82 postseason games. Players without previous suspensions, on average, rarely get postseason bans. Since 2013, there have been 20 players suspended by the Department of Player Safety in the postseason; of those 20, only eight players had never been suspended before. Doughty said Friday he would make the same hit again under the same circumstances.
“I did not intend to injure him,” Doughty said. “Did I intend to separate him from the puck and hit him? Yeah, for sure, but I’m a defenseman. That’s my job. That’s what I do. I feel terrible that I hit him in the head, and if he’s having any problems, I feel awful about that, but I would do it all over again. I would make that hit and try to separate him from the puck.”
The loss of Doughty for Game 2 could have a devastating effect on defense for the Kings, who lost Game 1 at Vegas 1-0. They played that game without injured defensemen Derek Forbort and Jake Muzzin, and Stevens said they will likely be without both players again on Friday. Now, they will also be without their best defenseman and a player who is expected to be a finalist for the Norris Trophy this season. Doughty was third on the Kings in scoring with 60 points (10 goals, 50 assists) and skated a team-high 26 minutes, 50 seconds per game. He played 28:02 in Game 1.
“That’s the way we play the game,” Doughty said. “You got to play physical. You want me to just let that guy get to the net and get a scoring chance? I’m not going to let him do that. I did not at all intend to hit him in the head, and I 100 percent got his shoulder first. I definitely hit the head after that. Maybe it’s a penalty call or something like that, but a suspension? In the playoffs? I don’t think so. I saw four hits last that deserve more games than that, so we’ll see what he does now.”
ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski contributed to this report.