Ville deserves suspension

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:51 AM ET


 Sometime before the Flames board their charter flight for Tampa today, Ville Nieminen will be told he needn't make the trip.

 At least, that's what he should be told.

 Surely his hit from behind on Vincent Lecavalier late in Monday's 1-0 loss will land him a one-game suspension, at the very least, following discussions between league disciplinarian Colin Campbell and Flames coach Darryl Sutter yesterday.

 Intended or not, it was the type of dangerous hit hockey has pressed hard to eliminate.

 The fact Lecavalier managed to skate to the bench after the major was called bodes well for Nieminen and the Flames. Otherwise, the feisty Finn surely would have seen his last game this year.

 What isn't working in his favour is the fact this is his second offence in these playoffs, proving he didn't learn from his last late-game run-in -- a premeditated mugging of defenceless Red Wings netminder Curtis Joseph as time expired.

 Funny, both infractions came on the tail end of losses, which fits in with the Flames' reputation as a team that doesn't take losing well.

 That's not to say Nieminen meant to hurt Le-cavalier. But the sport needs to take a stand on reckless hits that can inflict significant damage, especially to its stars.

 Nieminen may have seriously hurt Lecavalier.

 The extent of possible injury is unknown. For what it's worth, Lecavalier sat on the bench for the final four minutes following the incident that left him face down and motionless for a time.

 Because he was hit two ft. from the boards, the awkward impact could have caused head trauma. If so, he'd be done for the final two or three games of the season. If that looks to be the case, the suspension should be equally as long.

 Then again, Lecavalier could just as easily suit up tomorrow night and likely will.

 You can bet the major factor delaying a league ruling yesterday revolved around Lecavalier's status, which the Lightning is likely painting as highly questionable.

 Don't forget how sensitive the league is these days about head shots, especially in light of the fact such maladies prevented key Lightning players Pavel Kubina and Ruslan Fedotenko from playing Monday.

 The Flames have been victimized by the same sort of injury as a vicious elbow by Derian Hatcher knocked Matthew Lombardi out of the playoffs. Hatcher got three games.

 All that also explains why Kerry Fraser was so quick to whistle Chris Clark for a head shot on Nolan Pratt two minutes in, which put the Flames down two men, eventually costing them the game.

 Those in Calgary who don't believe the hit deserves a suspension of any sort should consider how they'd feel if the roles were reversed and it was Andre Roy who blindsided Jarome Iginla.

 Thought so.

 Obviously, Nieminen and the Flames suggest his hit was a case of Lecavalier turning his back at the last second -- a claim not supported very well by the game film.

 When Lecavalier pulled himself off the ice after the penalty had been handed out, the Flames were quick to suggest he was faking the injury to draw a major, which is also a real possibility. The five-minute major forced the Flames to press for the game-tying goal while shorthanded.

 At least one Flames player quietly directed his frustration towards Nieminen for making the hit at such a crucial time in the game and for jeopardizing the team with a likely suspension.

 Sutter would undoubtedly have scratched Krzysztof Oliwa tomorrow in favour of Dave Lowry but will have to play both if Nieminen is forced to sit.

 He should, and likely will, get one game.

 A costly hit indeed.


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