Gophers coach Don Lucia was not complaing about the hit that broke defenseman Nick Leddy's jaw after Minnesota's 5-1 victory over Alaska Anchorage on Friday night. But later he looked at the videotape.
He said the tape showed Seawolves forward Jade Portwood hitting Leddy in the head with his shoulder. That makes the hit illegal, he said.
Lucia said the team will miss Leddy, who was playing on the first pair of defensemen with senior David Fischer.
"It's a big hit for us," Lucia said, no pun intended. "The subtle things that he can do so well is even getting to the puck. He is such a good skater. It's not taking the puck and going end to end. It's not contributing as much offensively, which is going to happen in time for him.
"It's the foot races. It's getting to a loose puck. It's turning it up the rink. And he was very good defensively for us as well. We had a nice groupings together with him and Fish [Fischer], so that changes things. But we'll see how long he is out. I think it is a maximum of six weeks. It could be shorter. We will know more hopefully in the next couple of weeks."
Leddy, who is 5-11, 180 pounds, did not have any points in five games. He led Eden Prairie to the Class 2A state title in hockey in March and was named Mr. Hockey. Then in late June, he was taken in the first round at No. 16 by the Wild.
"I talked to him [Saturday]. I talked to him a little bit. He was in the locker room," Lucia said. "The good thing is, it is an injury you are going to come back from. The positive is, it's not your knee, it's not your shoulder, things like that. It was a tough hit. I don't think it was anything intentional with the kid but it was still, in my view, after watching the videotape --- the paper had an unbelievable shot of it. [See Sunday's Star Tribune Sports section.] It was a shot to the head.
"As much as you want to say it was a good hit, there are rules put in. And that's why there is zero tolerance for shots to the head. Just as in football, you don't allow crackback blocks. You don't allow blows to the head. You have rules in there to protect the players for a reason. I don't think the kid tried to, but still it was a shot to the head."
Lucia said he has already talked to Greg Shepherd, the supervisor of officials, about the play. "I talked to our referee in chief and I forwarded it and I think those things have to be looked at because that is a dangerous play," Lucia said. "Even though you are in a vulnerable position, that doesn't mean you can make that hit like that. That is my opinion. That is why the rule is in there."
One reporter after the Gophers' 4-1 victory over Alaska Anchorage, asked Lucia how a player can avoid a hit like that? "You just can't hit him in the head, plain and simple," Lucia said. "That's why it is in the rulebook. Zero tolerance.
"Look at the concussions in the game today. [Leddy] gets out because of a fractured jaw. Those are the kind of hits you want to eliminate from the game."
Lucia said he does not think Leddy will have to have his jaw wired. "I am hoping that within a week or two he can come out and skate a little bit," Lucia said, "so he can stay in conditioning. We'll see how it goes from here."
Shepherd was at the Gophers vs. Alaska Anchorage game on Sunday. But the on-ice action was very tame compared to Friday's game when there were 35 penalties called for 78 minutes.
On Sunday, there were eight minorrs, four per side, for 16 minutes total .
After the league reviews Portwood's hit on Leddy near the end of the first period, I expect he will suspended for at least one or two games. And it should happen quickly, by Monday or Tuesday.
Portwood is a 6-3, 207-pound sophomore from Victoria, British Columbia.
Wisconsin freshman forward Craig Smith was suspended for two games last weekend because of a check from behind which injured a Minnesota State Mankato forward. Mavs captain Geoff Irwin missed their series at Denver last weekend with a separated shoulder.
Smith received a game disqualification at the time of the hit, which carried a one-game suspension. The University of Wisconsin, with the WCHA'a approval, suspended him for a second game.
Leddy will miss at least 11 games. The Gophers play the next five weekends, then have a weekend off. So Leddy might be able to return Dec. 11-12 at Michigan Tech.
After that series, the Gophers have a holiday break. So Lucia might hold Leddy out of the Tech series until the Dodge Holiday Classic on Jan. 2-3. That might make more sense.