The Detroit Red Wings are having their worst season in decades.  Their 25-season playoff streak looks to be coming to an end, and it won’t be any easier as they’ll likely be playing the next few games without their fourth-leading scorer

Gustav Nyquist will go before the NHL’s Department of Player Safety this week.  The winger has been offered an in-person hearing for a high stick on Minnesota’s Jared Spurgeon, which would allow the NHL to issue a suspension of six games or more.



This stickwork came 14:13 into the first period of Sunday’s game.  Nyquist was given a double-minor for high-sticking that caused injury.

“I didn’t mean to do that,” Nyquist said. “My stick gets caught. I am trying to get body position on him. I’m happy he was out there again. I had no intention of doing that. My stick gets caught. It looks bad, but I’m happy he’s okay. “

“That’s just a battle, that’s just the way it goes. Along the boards, then after that I’m trying to get body position on him and my stick gets caught, so it was good to see him out there right after. I’m happy he was out there playing the rest of the game.”

“Obviously, I’ve got to have better control of my stick.”

That’s his story, and he’s apparently sticking to it, but that’s not how it appeared.

Nyquist’s stick jab looked to be in retaliation for a crosscheck by Spurgeon just moments before.  As Nyquist got back to his feet, he swung his stick upward, with the toe of his blade connecting with Spurgeon’s cheek.

While the officials penalized a high stick that caused injury, the replays will allow Player Safety a better opportunity to assess the retaliatory nature of the attack and punish appropriately.

“I just don’t understand how that’s not a five-minute penalty. Obviously he’s not a player that is going to, I want to say do it on purpose except anybody watching the game– It’s a five-minute penalty regardless,” said Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk. “There’s four [officials] out there that didn’t see it. But it’s good on us to go get one and make sure that we didn’t let it bother us. but it’s a dangerous play. Again, it’s not a guy that’s trying to do it, but it’s a retaliatory thing and it should be a five-minute penalty.”

By the book, Dubnyk’s right.  The high-sticking penalty was called based on the actual hit and subsequent injury, but the officials didn’t catch what appeared to be intent.  From the NHL rule book’s section on high-sticking:

60.3 Double-minor Penalty – When a player carries or holds any part of his stick above the shoulders of the opponent so his stick above the shoulders of the opponent so that injury results, the Referee shall assess a double-minor penalty for all contact that causes an injury, whether accidental or careless, in the opinion of the Referee.

60.4 Match Penalty – When, in the opinion of the Referee, a player attempts to or deliberately injures an opponent while carrying or holding any part of his stick above the shoulders of the opponent, the
Referee shall assess a match penalty to the offending player.

Of course, based on the nature of the stick work, the league could alternatively consider it a spear.

62.1 Spearing – Spearing shall mean stabbing an opponent with the point of the stick blade, whether contact is made or not.

A spearing call requires a double-minor if you miss, a major if you make contact, and a match penalty if you make contact and cause an injury, which Nyquist obviously did.

“As soon as I heard he was just getting stitched up it made me feel a lot better,” said Minnesota head coach Bruce Boudreau. “Two inches closer and the guy could’ve speared his eye out.”

Wings coach Jeff Blashill defended his player’s intentions on the play without having taken a second look.

“I haven’t really, to be honest with you, looked at it at all,” Blashill said. “He got his stick up there but I’ve known [Nyquist] for six-plus years. There’s no chance there was any intent.”

Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg also stuck up for his teammate.

“I don’t think he meant to spear him in the face,” said Zetterberg. “Probably tried to move his stick over and got caught. I think everyone in here knows him better than that.”

Spurgeon received some stitches and returned to the game, which should factor into the length of suspension.

On NBC Sports, Jeremy Roenick called the play a “desperate attempt to injure” and “one of the worst stick infractions” he’d seen, calling for a suspension of at least six games.

ESPN’s John Buccigross also called for a lengthy ban.

Nyquist has never been suspended during his NHL career.  At least, not yet.

The Wings’ next game is Wednesday. Don’t expect to see Nyquist in the lineup.