Now, they just have to wait to find out if their captain will be on the ice with them for Game 1 next Wednesday.
Dustin Brown's status should not be in question, but in this suspension-crazy era of NHL hockey, there will be many ready to call for him to be banned after a controversial hit just seconds before Los Angeles' overtime winner to close out the Western Conference Final Tuesday night in Phoenix.
With 2:31 remaining in overtime, Brown collided violently with Coyotes defenseman Michal Rozsival just inside the Los Angeles blue line. The hit came just as the whistle blew to call offsides on the Coyotes, but there was no chance for Brown to pull up and avoid the collision, as he was already committed to the hit.
There is room to question how Brown hit Rozsival. The players knocked knees on the play, with Rozsival going down in pain and eventually needing to be helped off the ice. The Coyotes pleaded for a kneeing penalty at the time and complained about both the hit and the lack of a call after the game, but a closer look at the play reveals this was one of the increasingly rare times the referees got it right. And the league office now needs to make the right call as well, and not subject Brown to any supplemental discipline.
That may take some moral courage, as the calls for suspensions were already mounting late Tuesday night. Phoenix captain Shane Doan and fellow forward Martin Hanzal both had heated words with Brown during the handshake line. This came only moments after the hit, as Dustin Penner scored the winner just 13 seconds after play resumed.
Doan and goalie Mike Smith each were given game misconducts for arguing with officials after the goal, and Smith continued his complaints to reporters after the contest.
"If Raffi Torres gets 25 games for his hit during the play then this guy [Brown] ought to be done forever," Smith was quoted in a tweet by Fox Sports Arizona reporter Mark McClune.
Torres' brutal head shot on Marian Hossa in the opening round of the playoffs bears no resemblance to this play, but it appears that cheap shot will now be the go-to comparison whenever hyperbole is sought, especially by Torres' Coyotes teammates.
Besides the obvious difference between a head shot and a knee-on-knee hit, there's the matter of whether Brown's hit was even illegal, let alone worthy of a suspension. Brown pleaded his case after the game.
"Rozsival was cutting to the middle and I cut across and made contact," Brown told LA Kings Insider Rich Hammond. "Obviously they thought it was kneeing. I felt I got him with my shoulder. My left side and his right side all made contact, from toe to shoulder."
Brown plays on the edge and has been guilty of crossing over the line at times, but this was not one of those occasions. While knee-on-knee contact was made, Brown did not appear to stick out his leg to initiate the contact, and there was also significant shoulder-to-shoulder contact.
That makes it a legal full-body hit, and Brown's spot in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final should be safe.
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