Niemo awaits his fate

TODD SAELHOF -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 3:34 PM ET


 The Calgary Flames are awaiting sentencing of Ville Nieminen for his latest flagrant foul in the 2004 Stanley Cup playoffs.

 A decision from the NHL could come as early as this morning.

 But whether league disciplinarian Colin Campbell issues a suspension to the feisty Flames forward may well depend on the health of Nieminen's victim, Tampa Bay Lightning scoring star Vincent Lecavalier.

 In Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final, Bolts forward Cory Stillman elbowed Marcus Nilson, sending the Flames centre head-first into the glass. Nilson was left dazed, bleeding and possibly concussed but the league opted to withhold its decision on a suspension to Stillman until after it knew Nilson was deemed healthy enough to play in Game 2 of the series.

 Nilson played. So a ban to Stillman was negated.

 "Do you allow a guy to take another guy out of the Stanley Cup final?" Campbell told a Florida newspaper Monday.

 "The answer is no. Obviously, (Nilson) was able to play. It was touch-and-go for a while. We monitored it and Tampa was aware of it."

 So, too, were the Flames.

 "I look at Stillman's hit and it wasn't a suspension," said Flames assistant captain Craig Conroy. "I guess with Nieminen, it would be the same thing the league did with Nilson. If Lecavalier plays, no suspension. If Lecavalier doesn't play, then maybe there should be one."

 There was speculation late Monday and yesterday Lecavalier was suffering from concussion-like symptoms as a result of the hit. Lecavalier has been a force for the Lightning with nine goals and 15 points in these playoffs.

 On the hit, Nieminen checked the player from behind and got his hands high, driving Lecavalier's head hard into the glass.

 Conroy, however, considered Nieminen to have taken less strides and used less speed to hit Lecavalier than Stillman did to level Nilson a few nights earlier.

 While Nieminen refused to comment on the situation yesterday, he did state his case following Monday's game.

 "Lecavalier turned at the last second and I finished my check," Nieminen said. "It's unfortunate. He was two feet away from the boards and fell awkwardly. I didn't have speed on the hit. It was a battle for the puck. I didn't take any strides."

 Regardless, it's possible for Nieminen to be slapped with a ban of two games given he's a repeat offender in these playoffs.

 "He didn't play in Game 5 (against the Detroit Red Wings) either, if you recollect," said Flames GM/head coach Darryl Sutter of Nieminen's suspension for running into goaltender Curtis Joseph in the dying seconds of Game 4 at the Saddledome. "On that one, I couldn't defend him.

 "This one, I totally defend him."

 Certainly, the Flames have already been hit hard by Nieminen's reckless action. When Nieminen was tagged with the five-minute boarding major and game misconduct, it came with 4:13 left in Game 3, forcing the Flames to try and tie the game while playing shorthanded.

 Said Sutter: "If that is a major penalty, that should be the extent of it. Because that in itself is enough. From what I've seen in this series, there were two flagrant (penalties) that weren't called. One was called a minor and one wasn't even called a penalty and I never said anything about it.

 "Whatever the trickle down is, I can live with it."


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