SUN Hockey Pool

Sutton adjusting to new rules

Oilers defenceman Andy Sutton scraps with Avalanche defenceman Shane O'Brien at the Pepsi Center in...

Oilers defenceman Andy Sutton scraps with Avalanche defenceman Shane O'Brien at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Col., Oct. 28, 2011. (RICK WILKING/Reuters)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:09 PM ET

EDMONTON - It’s a very fine line when three or four inches at high speed means the difference between a five-game suspension and a clean hit, but if those are the rules Andy Sutton has no choice but to accept them.

With four games left on his five-game sentence for an open-ice hit on Gabriel Landeskog, Sutton spoke for the first time Wednesday and grudgingly accepted the punishment.

“My intention was to catch a player with his head down with a clean body check,” said the Oilers defenceman. “I don’t feel I deviated my positioning to target the head. If the end result is a good portion of the blow ending up on his head I have to deal with the consequences.”

Sutton argued in his defence that Landeskog was turned and bent in such a way that there wasn’t much else to make contact with, and that he actually grazed Landeskog’s shoulder first — a point Brendan Shanahan confirmed in explaining the supplementary discipline.

“It’s a difficult play, I didn’t have a large area to hit,” said the 6-foot-6, 245-pounder, adding if he’d made contact a few inches to the right everything is fine.

“At the end of the day, given where the league is headed with the rules, it’s on the hitter to make sure he’s in total control. Regardless of what the opposing player does, you have ensure that the primary point of contact is on the body.”

Where the league is headed with the rules, some fear, is a climate where if a player misses his target by a fraction of a second and catches the head, regardless of intent, it will result in a hefty suspension. If that’s the case, why risk throwing those big, open-ice hits at all?

“I’ll have to be even more mindful of the new rules,” said Sutton. “I’m going to continue to play aggressively, it’s got me this far. I guess I’ll have to double-check all my routes in the future.”

The hearing itself was useful, though, and Sutton believes he had a fair opportunity to tell his side of the story.

“(Shanahan) was very receptive. He listened to everything we had to say multiple times. He gave us a good portion of his day and we pleaded our case. Ultimately he’s making the decision that’s best for all players involved … and trying to make a permanent change.”

One that’s going to take time, and frustrate a lot of people, before it reaches widespread acceptance.

“The same thing happened early on with obstruction. It’s a feeling-out process and that’s what we’re going through right now,” said Sutton. “You never want to be the guy suspended, the guy other people learn from in this instance, but these are the cards I’m dealt right now.”

With Sutton out, and blueliners Ryan Whitney and Cam Barker on the limp, the Oilers recalled defenceman Colten Teubert, the former L.A. Kings draft pick came over in the Dustin Penner trade. Teubert has yet to play an NHL game, but it looks like his first will be against his old team.

OCTOBER CLASSIC

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins capped off his dream start to this NHL career by being named the league’s rookie of the month.

“It’s definitely a good honour,” said Nugent-Hopkins, who has 11 points in 11 games. “It just shows how good the team’s been playing and how good our line has been clicking and stuff. We’ve really developed some chemistry.

“I’ve seen some of the starts that the other guys had and it looks like they’re doing really good, too. It’s been a good adjustment for all of us, I’m just excited about how well it’s gone for me.”

robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca

@SUN_TYCHKOWSKI


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