TAMPA, Fla. -- Calgary Flames left wing Ville Nieminen was
suspended Wednesday for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final, two days
after ramming Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier's head into the glass late in Game 4.
misconduct for ramming Lecavalier from behind while the Tampa Bay
center was digging the puck out from along the boards. Lecavalier
struck the glass face-first.
Lecavalier was cut on the right side of his head, requiring stitches, and appeared to be groggy. But he said before practicing Wednesday he felt fine and planned to play Thursday.
"Of course I was a little dizzy, but half an hour after the
game I felt great," he said. "No headaches, nothing."
The Flames asked the NHL why Nieminen was suspended and the Lightning's Cory Stillman wasn't for a hit on the Flames' Marcus Nilson earlier in the series, but NHL director of hockey operations Colin Campbell said the two plays were different.
Campbell said the Stillman hit wasn't excessive and
came from the side, not the rear to an undefended player as Nieminen's did.
"Nieminen used his forearm to deliver a forceful hit from
behind to the head of his opponent," Campbell said. "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 in Game 5, this
type of hit must be subject to supplemental discipline."
Nieminen said Monday night he didn't think he should be suspended.
"He was two feet or so away from the boards," Nieminen said. "I was just finishing my check. I didn't have the speed on that
hit. I didn't take any strides or anything. It was a board battle."
Flames coach Darryl Sutter was irritated by the suspension but said it was "expected."
"It holds up to what's happened in the playoffs to date," Sutter said. "Was it shocking to you (the media) that they suspended him? No, it wasn't to us either."
Nieminen, fifth in the playoffs with 55 penalty minutes, also
was suspended for Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals against Detroit for charging goalie Curtis Joseph with four seconds
remaining in Game 4.
Lecavalier was the third Lightning player to be injured during
the final. Right wing Ruslan Fedotenko (facial cut, possible
concussion) and defenseman Pavel Kubina (lower body injury,
possible concussion) sat out Game 4, and their status for Game 5
also is uncertain.