Niagara Gazette

Pro Sports

September 27, 2011

Sabres 'disappointed' with inconsistent suspension rulings

BUFFALO — Paul Gaustad prides himself on being a hard-nosed yet fair hockey player. So when Toronto’s Colby Armstrong rammed him head-first into the boards from behind early Saturday, Gaustad, while shaken up a bit, got up immediately. The Sabres center refused to milk the hit.

Just minutes earlier, teammate Brad Boyes had bumped Joe Colborne in the head illegally, a hit that basically went unnoticed until the NHL banned the winger two games Sunday.

Meanwhile, the league never suspended Armstrong, whose only punishment was a minor charging penalty.

On Tuesday, Gaustad said he was “going to try to bite my tongue as much as possible.”

“I’m just a little disappointed by it because I’m not the type of player who stays down,” Gaustad said inside the First Niagara Center. “If I can get up, I get up. They haven’t asked me how I’m doing, anything like that, the NHL hasn’t. So they don’t know if I’m injured or not. …

“It’s unfortunate because Brad Boyes gets suspended for two games and there’s not even a review on some of the other hits. Disappointed a little bit, but move on.”

Coach Lindy Ruff said the Sabres asked the league about the Armstrong hit.

“We got what we thought was a reasonable answer,” said Ruff, who didn’t elaborate further.

However, Gaustad, who had a stiff neck, can’t be convinced the hit was clean.

“From what I saw, I hope (it’s) not a legal hit, because that’s if it is, I could’ve gotten hurt more than what I was,” he said.

New NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan has already experienced a wild preseason, suspending players almost daily. Clearly, the former 50-goal scorer, who took over for the much-maligned Colin Campbell, is trying to set a precedent.

Ruff, however, understands Shanahan won’t be perfect.

“There’s a break-in period from Brendan’s point of view, from our point of view,” Ruff said. “Nobody really noticed ... the Boyes hit. But I didn’t even think twice about going back and looking at it until after the game when we got the call they were reviewing it. I had to go back myself and slow it down.

“That’s where referees have such a disadvantage. They have a split-second, whether it’s body-on-body, whether the head was targeted first. That’s not easy to do at game speed.”

While Boyes’ hit went unpenalized, both he and Ruff know the hit was illegal.

“I think it was probably a two-game exhibition suspension,” Ruff joked.

Like Ruff, Boyes thought little about the hit until the league called. Boyes said he was finishing his check when Colborne turned unexpectedly in front of the Toronto net.

“It wasn’t intentional to get him high … but the replays show it was a little high, and I’ll pay the consequences,” Boyes said.

He added: “They’re trying to get that stuff out of the game, and I agree with that part.”

Boyes said he’s never been suspended before.

“I barely get penalties,” he joked. “When I got the call, I thought I hooked someone too hard or something.”

•••

Gaustad said a couple of “close calls” and watching Vancouver’s Manny Malhotra nearly lose an eye last season made him don a visor this season.

He started sporting one with Team USA at the world championship in the spring, the first time he had used the protection since his junior career ended nine years ago.

The visor has already paid dividends.

“I got a shot right off the visor last game,” Gaustad said.” It was a hard rim, hit me square in the visor. So far, it’s been 1-0 for the visor.”

He added: “It’s not going to detract me from being physical (or fighting).”

•••

Center Derek Roy (shoulder) practiced in a non-contact role Tuesday. He should begin practicing fully tonight or Thursday, Ruff said. Roy was injured Friday in Toronto. … Center Jochen Hecht (face) is progressing and should start skating later this week. The German hasn’t practiced since he collided with defenseman Shaone Morrisonn last week. Ruff said he has a “small amount of concern” Hecht could miss the regular-season opener next week in Finland. … The Sabres will likely bring Drew MacIntyre to Europe as their third goalie, Ruff said. … The Sabres will scrimmage at 7 tonight inside the FNC.

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