Jeff Blashill delivered a defense of Detroit Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin, whose future is uncertain both because of a possible injury and disciplinary measures.
Larkin did not practice Friday; he ventured onto the ice briefly by himself, but left after a few minutes. He had an afternoon hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety to defend punching a foe, and then an appointment with medical personnel.
It all began well enough Thursday: Larkin was celebrated by nine former captains including general manager Steve Yzerman, Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg and Alex Delvecchio before the opener, and scored in the first period. In the second period, Larkin’s night turned from good to bad.
Midway through the period, Tampa Bay Lightning fourth-line forward Mathieu Joseph ran Larkin into the boards. Larkin suffered a neck injury in April when Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn shoved his stick into Larkin’s neck; Larkin had to be hospitalized. Larkin has talked about how tough it was afterward, and Blashill further elucidated to Larkin’s tribulations.
“At the end of last year, Larks got a crosscheck to the back of the neck with enough force that he spent the night in hospital and spent eight weeks in a cervical hard collar,” Blashill said. “There was no penalty on the play, which, that happens. Things happen fast. And there was no suspension.
“So if you’re Dylan Larkin, or you’re us, it kind of sets the standard a little bit. It sets the standard a little bit that that’s not worthy of it and we have to make sure we police ourselves a little bit. Certainly, that’s what partially would go through his head. Then you fast-forward to (Thursday’s) game and they have a player that’s trying to play up the lineup for the first time, and kind of took a run at (Lucas) Raymond on one side, and then comes back over. … He hits him right in the numbers and Lark’s head goes into the glass. At that point, he gets up, there’s no penalty called. He’s thinking, we have to police ourselves out here.”
Larkin punched Joseph in the head, sending him to the ice. Joseph went to the dressing room but returned to finish the period.
Larkin was not made available to media postgame.
“I think Larks would tell you that he’d like to take that back. That really what he was trying to do was get his attention to fight him. Personally, we’d like to be a position where it’s a penalty on the original hit. Then I don’t know if anything happens.
“I feel bad, pissed off, for Larks that he has to take that punishment and then feels the need on a regular basis to defend himself.”
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