'Crossed the line'

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 3:03 PM ET


 TAMPA -- Stanley Cup final or not, Colin Campbell couldn't ignore another blow to the head.

 The NHL suspended Flames winger Ville Nieminen for Game 5 tonight, the result of a hit on Lightning centre Vincent Lecavalier.

 The incident occurred at 15:47 of the third period in Game 4 Monday in Calgary. Nieminen received a five-minute major and a game misconduct for boarding.

 "Nieminen used his forearm to deliver a forceful hit from behind to the head of his opponent," Campbell, NHL executive vice-president and director of hockey operations, said in a statement when issuing the suspension.

 "This hit was more severe than any of the other plays that were brought to our attention during the final. This was a hit that clearly crossed the line and was directed at the head. Even if Lecavalier is able to play Game 5 (tonight), this type of hit must be subject to supplemental discipline."

 With the Flames trailing 1-0 at the time, the major penalty hampered the team's attempt to tie the game in the final minutes, drawing the ire of fans at the Saddledome.

 The Lightning won the contest, tying the best-of-seven series 2-2.

 At a press conference yesterday, Campbell was asked about Nieminen's suspension and was grilled about a Game 1 hit by Lightning forward Cory Stillman to the head of Flames centre Marcus Nilson. The play was not penalized and there was no suspension, although the Flames asked the league to review the hit.

 "If you look at the Cory Stillman hit, it was to the side," Campbell said.

 "Nilson was travelling on the boards and had the puck and Stillman made contact and brought the elbow up and left his feet."

 Campbell said Nieminen's hit on Lecavalier was more severe because the Lightning centre was hit from behind.

 "Nieminen hit him straight from the back. The hit by Nieminen was a forearm directly to the back of the head, causing Lecavalier's head to hit the glass. That was the difference ...

 "In this case, there was no doubt that it deserved a five-minute penalty."

 Nieminen was also suspended for one game for running into Detroit Red Wings goalie Curtis Joseph during the Western Conference semifinal. Campbell said the previous suspension factored into his ruling.

 Nieminen is averaging 16:27 minutes per game in these playoffs and is a key component to the team's penalty-killing unit.


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