TORONTO – Buffalo Sabres coach Phil Housley confirmed suspicions that defenseman Victor Antipin almost certainly will miss the last four games of the season with the injuries he suffered from a hit Saturday in Nashville from Predators forward Scott Hartnell.
Speaking after the morning skate in advance of tonight's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Housley was talking slowly and choosing his words carefully as he spoke, but it was clear he was furious there was no suspension of Hartnell from the league's Department of Player Safety.
"I do know that our player was taken off on a stretcher, has a broken nose, facial lacerations and missing teeth," Housley said in Air Canada Centre. "So in that respect, I strongly disagree with the NHL decision. It's unfortunate for Victor because I thought he had a solid game and I don't believe he'll be playing the rest of the year. We feel for him ... I just felt with that situation, it wasn't handled the right way."
Goaltender Chad Johnson didn't see the hit but was the closest player to Antipin and immediately called for trainers when he noticed the Buffalo defenseman face first on the ice.
"I definitely thought there should have been a suspension but I don't make those decisions," Johnson said. "Especially being a veteran guy whose job is to bodycheck and that's all he really does, [Hartnell] knows where to hit guys and where dangerous spots are. I think he knew it was a vulnerable spot to hit a player. To hit him high, he knows impact is on the neck and head."
Defenseman Justin Falk was Antipin's partner on the shift and also missed the hit live because most players had turned away and moved up ice after Antipin reversed the puck to Casey Mittelstadt in the Buffalo zone.
"The puck was reversed and Hartnell rode him before he finished him," Falk said. "We were jumping to go the other way and the whistle didn't even go right away. We were all in the neutral zone and then we turned back and saw him on the ice. Not knowing the severity until you saw the replay, it was scary.
"I understand that type of check can happen often in a game. Victor got caught a little bit away from the glass and when Hartnell finished him there was a little bit of a whiplash effect going in. That's a tough play. You want to keep the physicality in the game but when you reverse a puck you're not expecting to get finished like that because your numbers are showing."
Jack Eichel was diplomatic about the situation.
"It's never easy to see your teammate go down and I think the severity of Victor's injuries ... well, it makes it tough for me to comment on what Player Safety saw," Eichel said. "He was a bit defenseless and definitely got popped in the numbers. He's in a tough situation a little bit away from the boards. He didn't hit him that hard but it was an awkward spot. It's not really my area of expertise, so I'll leave it to the league."