First, defenseman Willie Mitchell left the game after one shift. Just 51 seconds of ice time and his night was done. The team didn't disclose anything about the injury after the game other than the fact that Mitchell had a lower-body injury. I think right now 85 percent of injuries in hockey are being disclosed either as upper-body or lower-body injuries.
However it was the injury to Mike Richards that has caught everybody's attention. People were wondering if it will catch Brendan Shanahan's eye, too. The answer is no. The league viewed the hit as a body check that just happened to have contact with the head.
Late in the second period, Richards was by the side boards in the same part of the ice as the Panthers' Sean Bergenheim and the puck. You can guess that the two made some contact. After the hit from Bergenheim, Richards seemed dazed for a moment before trying to chase down Bergenheim for the rest of his shift.
Richards received a double-minor (slashing then roughing) and Bergenheim took a minor (roughing). But Bergenheim was not penalized for the initial hit. Jarret Stoll also took a roughing minor and the Panthers had a four-minute power play, on which they didn't score.
But the biggest part was the fact that Richards didn't play after taking this double minor. When the third period began, he wasn't in the penalty box to serve the remainder of his penalty. Instead, he never returned to the bench. While the team wouldn't confirm, the L.A. Kings on-ice reporter on the TV broadcast said that he was being evaluated and sure made it sound like he was getting the mandatory quiet time after questionable hits.
"We haven't got a full report yet," coach Terry Murray said after the game. "The doctors and trainers are busy evaluating them, and they'll probably let me know a little bit more before I get away tonight. We'll have a better idea tomorrow."
Now it's tomorrow and here comes the part where Kings fans hold their breath. Richards will be placed on injury reserve, meaning he will be out for a minimum of a week. Mitchell won't go on IR, but he is expected to be out for a couple games, too.
So the question is ... dirty hit? The hit sure didn't seem like it in real time. There was nothing that really stuck out about the hit until you see the replay. Bergenheim did hit Richards on the chin with his shoulder, but it's tough for me to argue that was the intent or that it was even principle point of contact. The hit went through Richards' arm and Richards seems to be leaning forward a little at the time of impact making what seemed like a shoulder-to-shoulder hit turn into shoulder-to-chin. Bergenheim certainly didn't see anything wrong.
“It was almost like having the dirtiest hit on Wayne Gretzky," Bergenheim told Harvey Filakov of the Sun-Sentinel. “Keep your head up. He’s a physical player himself and has done some fairly dirty stuff. Actually the Booth hit under today’s standard would probably be a pretty long suspension. It was a perfect hit right in the chest."
The Booth hit is in reference to the shot then-Flyers captain Richards laid on former Panthers forward David Booth that cost Booth a good amount of time. So while very, very few players remain from that Florida team three seasons ago -- pretty much only Stephen Weiss -- the fans at least saw it as some retribution.
Hopefully, Richards is OK and suffered more from a minor neck injury instead of a concussion. That's the first order of business.
The second order ... should Bergenheim have heard from Shanahan? I think I made my stance clear (if I didn't then my answer is clear here: No), what's your take?