The Los Angeles Kings will be without the services of defenseman Drew Doughty in Game Two of the first round. Doughty was suspended this afternoon by the Department of Player Safety as punishment for an “illegal check to the head” on William Carrier. The explanation:
Earlier today, we speculated that Doughty might avoid a suspension because the hit didn’t rise to the level of an ejection and wasn’t committed by a previously suspended player. Aside from Matt Calvert (who wasn’t ejected for his cross-check at the end of a loss to Pittsburgh last year), the last player to be suspended for a playoff game without fitting either of those criteria was Brandon Bollig. Bollig is the polar opposite of Drew Doughty, though, and on the surface it is at least a little surprising that the Department of Player Safety suspended such a high-profile player. However, the league has attempted to crack down on checks to the head, and they’ve suspended other prominent players in the past, even in the postseason. The NHL played this one by the rulebook, as though this hit wasn’t egregious, it fit the definition:
A hit resulting in contact with an opponent’s head where the head was the main point of contact and such contact to the head was avoidable is not permitted.
So now, the Kings are in a bind. Doughty is out. Derek Forbort is out. Jake Muzzin skated in a non-contact jersey today, so he’s probably out. If that’s the case, LA is skating Alec Martinez, Dion Phaneuf, Christian Folin, Paul LaDue, Oscar Fantenberg, and Kevin Gravel on their blueline tomorrow. Martinez and Phaneuf are the epitome of bend-but-don’t break defensemen. Folin is a perfectly fine third-pairing defenseman. LaDue, Fantenberg, and Gravel played a combined 55 games for LA this season. That six-man unit might be made up of six NHL-level defensemen, but it is not a group that inspires confidence.
Regardless, if the Kings want to avoid going home in a 2-0 hole, they will need a standout performance from those six guys, or Jonathan Quick, or both. Otherwise, it could get ugly.