NHL takes a pass on Spurgeon hit

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 28, 2011 - 11:48 PM
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Colorado's Cody McLeod (55) checks the Wild's Jared Spurgeon (46) from behind.

Photo: Ann Heisenfelt, Associated Press

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NASHVILLE - Jared Spurgeon missed his first game because of an undisclosed leg injury Wednesday night, and the opponent who caused the injury skated off scot-free.

Colorado's Cody McLeod faced no discipline for his five-minute boarding major and game misconduct in Monday's Wild loss.

In an interview with the Star Tribune on Wednesday, NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan explained his decision. He said the NHL's hockey operations and player safety departments looked at the check extensively.

"McLeod actually sort of reaches out with his hand almost in what appears to us to be an effort to gauge the distance and almost to let him know, 'I'm here,'" Shanahan said. "Spurgeon digs in, applies the brakes and gets run into."

The Wild felt McLeod hit Spurgeon across the numbers, then with the 5-9 defenseman in a vulnerable position, drove him into the boards.

"I have to be careful because I'm a first-year coach, but I'm surprised and disappointed [McLeod wasn't suspended]," coach Mike Yeo said. "I don't think people understand how good of a player Jared Spurgeon is, but this guy is our Shea Weber, our Nick Lidstrom, and we lose him to a guy that's playing on their fourth line. [His] purpose for being in the lineup is to go and try to intimidate or try to play that kind of game.

"I thought it was a dangerous and dirty hit."

Shanahan said, "We didn't feel there was any extra force behind the hit. It was more of a big man coming in on a forecheck and colliding with another man that stepped in front of him to try to stop and shield the puck."

Shanahan said he called Colorado GM Francois Giguere and told him that the NHL didn't think McLeod did anything illegal, "but it's a dangerous play and you can't have too many of these dangerous plays. They eventually add up to say you're a dangerous player."

Yeo said Spurgeon's injury, being labeled a "lower body" injury, isn't as bad as originally feared. X-rays were negative, so "I don't think this will be a long-term thing."

But it's a big loss.

"Look at the minutes he plays," Yeo said of the team leader in ice time. "Playing against every team's top line, he's our first over the boards every power play, he's our top offensive producer on the back end and the way he goes out and defends in every situation, it's tough to replace a guy like that."

Marek Zidlicky, who entered Wednesday's game with no goals and has struggled defensively, will have to pick up the slack, Yeo said.

Zanon returns

Former Predators defenseman Greg Zanon, scratched in four of the past six games, returned.

"You never understand it," Zanon said. "It's obviously a hard thing. I mean, I've only missed one game in two years. I'm just trying to stay as positive as I can and work hard in practice so when I do get a chance, I'm reliable and maybe stay in there for a little while."

Defenseman Mike Lundin was scratched for callup Nate Prosser.

Etc.

• Jon DiSalvatore became the 35th player to dress for the Wild this season -- the most in the NHL. It was the Houston Aeros captain's first NHL game since March 7, 2006, when he played five games with the Blues -- a span of 2,122 days or five years, nine months and 21 days. He skated on a line with Matt Cullen and Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Jarod Palmer was scratched.

• Yeo hopes Devin Setoguchi (knee) returns "early in the new year," but Guillaume Latendresse (concussion) is "not anywhere near ready."

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