Wild, and increasingly contentious.
The Predators said forward Martin Erat would not be traveling to Anaheim for Friday's Game 5, having suffered an upper-body injury after a late hit from the Ducks' Jarkko Ruutu on Wednesday night in Game 4. Late Thursday afternoon, the NHL suspended Ruutu for one game, and his absence will coincide with the return of high-scoring Ducks forward Bobby Ryan, who served a two-game suspension.
"To me, it's absurd that there's even mention of a hearing when a guy has a shoulder-on-shoulder body check and the player passes the puck and they're saying it's so many tenths of a second that they allow," Ducks Coach Randy Carlyle said after practice, shortly before the suspension came down.
"That this was two-tenths or three-tenths of a second past the allowable point, it's kind of mind-boggling at times. … You live with the consequences because there is no formal way of appealing it. You take your lumps and move on."
The series is tied, 2-2, after the Ducks finished strong in Nashville in Game 4, scoring three third-period goals in a 6-3 victory. The Ducks practiced Thursday at Honda Center except for Ryan Getzlaf, who was given a maintenance day.
Apparently, Predators Coach Barry Trotz did not think the Ducks were doing such a good job of moving on, telling reporters after practice in Nashville that the Ducks were "whining and complaining," and speaking about the tradeoff of losing 50-point man Erat versus a "five-minute player" like Ruutu.
Still, the Ducks had a pretty good idea Ruutu would be sanctioned.
Ryan, having just gone through the process, was asked if he gave the Finnish forward and teammate any advice before the supplementary disciplinary hearing.
"I just told him their minds were made up before you go into it," Ryan said, smiling.
On a serious note, Ryan spoke about how difficult it was to watch two playoff games after his suspension, coming after he stomped on the foot of Nashville defenseman Jonathon Blum in Game 2. The Ducks split the two games he sat out, and it is now a best-of-three-game series with Anaheim holding home-ice advantage.
"Obviously, at this time of the year, you want to play, you want to compete with your teammates, and it's very tough for me to watch it unfold and not be able to participate," Ryan said.
He did have to show a certain measure of discipline in the press box.
"I think I kept my heart rate down a little bit," Ryan said. "When you're not caught up in the emotions of the game, it can get to you. It was definitely tough listening to fans talk around us, and yell and scream and support their team and not be able to say anything."
But this won't mean a shift in the way he operates on the ice.
"I've obviously never had anything like this before," Ryan said. "I've never been called a dirty player or malicious player or anything like that. So I won't change a thing. Absolutely not."