The Rangers forward delivered what appeared to be a deliberate elbow to the head of Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov during Saturday's Game 3. And while we've definitely seen worse — many times throughout these Stanley Cup playoffs, in fact — that does little to justify letting Prust slide in this instance.
The incident in question occurred when Prust and Volchenkov both went hard after the puck along the boards during the second period. Volchenkov had position on Prust, and the potential for plenty of contact was there, but the Rangers forward couldn't have played the situation any more poorly.
Rather than pulling up or delivering a good clean hit — which may have been difficult given the way Volchenkov was positioned along the boards — Prust went out of his way to throw what looks to be a blatant elbow. Even if it wasn't blatant, it sure seemed that way, which is all that will matter when Prust pleads his case before Brendan Shanahan, assuming the Department of Player Safety takes another look at the hit.
Not only should Shanahan take a look at the hit, which surprisingly didn't result in a penalty, but he'll need to come down on Prust with some sort of discipline. Failing to do so would demonstrate even more inconsistency than we've already seen from the league disciplinarian in his first season in the position.
The fact that Prust wasn't penalized on the play won't be a determinant in the decision-making process. After all, Raffi Torres wasn't even penalized for his hit on Marian Hossa, and we all saw how that situation ended. But the fact that no penalty was called on either play is a bit alarming. The league has made it a point to crack down on head shots, yet there's still a bit of disconnect when it comes to suppressing such hits during the natural flow of the action. On-ice officials certainly miss calls from time to time, but Prust's elbow looked fairly obvious, as his arm was extended a ways away from his body.
In any event, the head was the "principal point of contact," which is a phrase hockey fans have been exposed to time and time again in Shanahan's nifty little suspension videos this season. And when the league determines that to be the case, the player typically gets slapped with some sort of suspension.
Prust may only get one game for his hit on Volchenkov, or he could three to five. That's up to Shanahan to determine. What's perfectly clear, though, is that the elbow was a cheap shot and a play that certainly warrants some sort of punishment.