Lecavalier's condition for Game 5 unknown

Updated: June 3, 2004, 11:54 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

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.

Ferraro: Suspension warranted
Ville Nieminen
When Ville Nieminen hit Vincent Lecavalier from behind my first thought was that Nieminen would be suspended, and the one-game penalty he received was warranted. Nieminen hit a defenseless player from behind and drove his head into the boards. It was a foolish play that could have caused a serious injury, and it also cost Calgary a chance to come back at the end of Game 4.

As a result, the Flames will be without one of their best defensive forwards in Game 5. Calgary coach Darryl Sutter will have to juggle his lines, likely putting Dave Lowry into the lineup and perhaps moving Chuck Kobasew into Nieminen's spot.

But like every other kind of adversity that comes along at this time of year, the Flames have no time to worry about Nieminen's absence. They know they were able to win Game 5 of the Detroit series without Nieminen, so the rest of the players in the lockerroom won't see this as a crushing blow. Expect Calgary play very well Thursday night.
-- ESPN's Ray Ferraro

Nieminen drew a 5-minute major penalty for boarding and a game 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.