The Tampa Bay Lightning wanted retribution Sunday night after Detroit Red Wings winger Justin Abdelkader battered Mike Blunden’s face two nights earlier, and Brian Boyle decided he would be the one to dish it out.
After the final horn sounded in Game 3 of the NHL first-round playoff series, Boyle grabbed Abdelkader and challenged him to drop the gloves. Abdelkader refused, however, and the two eventually were separated after more than 30 seconds of grappling.
Boyle mocked his would-be combatant by imitating a chicken on his way to the bench, but Abelkader actually had a good reason not to throw down.
Since Abdelkader had taped his right hand before Sunday night’s game, he could have, under an obscure NHL rule, been suspended had he cut or injured an opponent during a fight.
“I would have liked to fight him,” Abdelkader explained to reporters after the Red Wings’ 2-0 win at Joe Louis Arena, via MLive.com. “I’m not 100 percent. I had my hand taped up from last game and from previous games. …
“I asked the ref if I cut him, is it a misconduct, and I already got one, so I got to be careful. Obviously, I want to stand up for myself, too, but this time of year, when you got injuries and you’re banged up, you’ve got to be smart, too, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
The taped-hand rule came into play once earlier this season, when New York Rangers forward J.T. Miller was given a match penalty (but not suspended) for violating it in a scrap with New Jersey Devils forward Sergei Kalanin.
Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill also relayed to reporters that he told Abelkader, who ranked third on the team with 19 goals during the regular season, not to fight Sunday night.
So it makes sense why we didn’t see Abdelkader throw fists with Boyle. But with at least two more games still to play between the teams — Tampa Bay leads the series 2-1 — we doubt Abdelkader has seen the last of the hulking Hingham, Mass., native.
Thumbnail photo via Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports Images