Kings’ Drew Doughty sounds off on his one-game suspension
Most NHL players will muffle their inner voice when it comes to speaking about league rulings that don’t go their way. At most, they will politely disagree.
Drew Doughty is not most NHL players.
The Kings’ emotional leader vehemently disagreed with a one-game suspension that will force him to miss Game 2 of the Western Conference quarterfinal series against the Vegas Golden Knights on Friday.
“I don’t think for one second that that is suspension-worthy,” Doughty said.
Doughty was disciplined for an illegal hit to the head of Vegas winger William Carrier in the third period of Game 1. He said he was thankful Carrier wasn’t seriously hurt on the play — Carrier reportedly is expected to play Friday — and that he didn’t intend to injure him.
But Doughty took issue with the NHL’s ruling that Carrier didn’t alter his position to make himself vulnerable to be hit. Doughty first hit Carrier’s shoulder but then caught him high in the head, resulting in a cut under his eye.
“He plants on his right leg going off his left, 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,” Doughty said. “I don’t think it’s suspension-worthy. ... It’s awful. Watching the games last night, I guess he’s got four or five more [of those types of hits] to give.”
Doughty’s teammates weren’t as boisterous but they backed their teammate.
“Me, personally, I didn’t think it was going to be a suspension,” Anze Kopitar said. “I thought it would be a fine.”
Said Alec Martinez, “I think it’s a hockey play.”
Kings coach John Stevens was initially brief in defending Doughty when he said “the only [other] thing I’ll say to that [is] as long as I’m on the Earth, I’ll agree to disagree with that decision.”
But when asked about adjusting without Doughty, arguably the best defenseman in the NHL, Stevens summoned the sarcasm of his predecessor, Darryl Sutter.
“I grabbed the staff yesterday and got together after the announcement,” Stevens said. “What we decided to do is, when the game starts tonight, we’re going to put two D on the ice. If we get a power play or a penalty kill, we’re going to put two D on the ice.
“We checked with the league and we’re pretty sure they’re going to keep the puck the same size, and Vegas is only going to be allowed to put five guys on the ice, unless they pull their goalie, they can put a sixth attacker on the ice. I think we’re good to go.”
In all seriousness, the Kings are expected to play three defensemen with a total of two games of playoff experience in Kevin Gravel, Oscar Fantenberg and Paul LaDue. Gravel will make his NHL playoff debut after Fantenberg and LaDue made theirs in Game 1.
Jake Muzzin still wore a no-contact jersey in practice, and Stevens said he’s “doubtful.”
The Kings said it’s going to take a collective effort to fill the created by Doughty’s absence, but he sounded optimistic in being able to do it.
“I have all the confidence in the world in this hockey club and I think we’ll rise to the occasion,” Martinez said.
Gravel can draw on his experience winning a Calder Cup with the Manchester Monarchs in 2015 but he acknowledged NHL playoffs are a different animal. Just staying on the ice has been a challenge for Gravel, who overcame Crohn’s disease — a digestive condition that causes inflammation and weight loss — last summer and wasn’t healthy until a few weeks into the season.
That wasn’t lost on him, hours before his biggest game yet.
“I think its good nerves,” Gravel said. “It’s an exciting game to play in. It’s an exciting time of the year. You grow up watching the playoffs, and obviously I always like playing in [them].”
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