WILMINGTON, Mass. — Considering Max Pacioretty's history with the Bruins, it wasn't a surprise that the Canadiens forward's three-game suspension for a head shot was the subject of many questions in the Boston locker room after Tuesday's practice at Ristuccia Arena.
But the Bruins didn't see any relationship between Zdeno Chara's controversial hit on Pacioretty and the check that Pacioretty delivered on Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang on Saturday. Chara was penalized but not suspended for checking Pacioretty into a stanchion between the benches at the Bell Centre last March, but Pacioretty did not escape supplemental discipline for his hit, which violated Rule 48 for targeting the head as the principal point of impact. Letang suffered a broken nose on the play, but returned later in the game and actually scored the game-winner in overtime that night.
"Injuries happen in this game," Bruins center Gregory Campbell said. "Nobody wants to see them happen, and things happen fast. I didn't break down the hit, and I'm not [NHL vice president of player safety] Brendan Shanahan. It looked like [Pacioretty] was trying to get a piece of Letang, and like I said, things happen fast in this game. Injuries happen, everybody knows that [who] plays hockey. It's unfortunate. Is it ironic? No, because we all play this game hard and it could happen to any of us."
Campbell has a better perspective than most on the difficulties of comparing incidents and dispensing justice. Campbell's father, Colin Campbell, was in charge of the NHL's supplemental discipline for 13 years before Shanahan assumed those duties this season, though Campbell did not rule on Chara's hit last year as he recused himself from any incidents involving his son's team.
Perhaps because his father is no longer involved in the decisions, Gregory Campbell admitted he did not pay a lot of attention this latest incident involving Pacioretty.
"I guess Brendan called it as he saw it," Campbell said. "I didn't really pay much attention to the hit.
"I saw the hit, I didn't think much of it and that's that," Campbell added.
For Boston coach Claude Julien, Pacioretty's hit on Letang evoked memories of a different incident involving the Bruins.
"To me it resembled a little bit the hit [Marc] Savard took from [Matt] Cooke a few years ago," Julien said when asked about Pacioretty's suspension. "It was almost identical. But that's the league's decision to make. Certainly it doesn't have any links to what happened to [Pacioretty with Chara] last year. That's two totally different things. He was on the receiving end of one and was on the giving end of another. The league chose to make the ruling on that, and that's where it ends."
Cooke was not suspended for his blindside head shot on Savard, who suffered a severe concussion on the play in March, 2010 and remains sidelined with post-concussion symptoms. But that hit proved the impetus for the initial version of Rule 48, which was further strengthened this season in an effort to eliminate dangerous head shots and reduce concussions in the game.
Pacioretty's suspension is the latest example of that crackdown, a movement Julien fully endorses.
"I think the NHL as a group decided to take that stance and take it a step further," Julien said. "Sometimes when you want to get the message across, you have to be really harsh and strong on those decisions early one because you're trying to educate players to have a little more restraint, composure and all that stuff where those kinds of hits are concerned. The only way to do that is to be hard right off the bat. I'm sure once everybody gets educated and those kinds of things start getting better, you're going to see less and less of that going on. That's the only way in my mind to do it."