Late in the first period, Kings forward Dustin Brown was following the puck into the Sharks zone when, just past the blue line, he collided with San Jose rookie sensation Tomas Hertl. It was a nasty knee-on-knee hit that sent Hertl sprawling onto the ice. As a result, Brown was given a five-minute kneeing penalty and was ejected from the game.
As of now, there are no further details in regards to the severity of Hertl’s injury. He left the game after the hit occurred and didn’t return. According to Sharks captain Joe Thornton, though, San Jose shouldn’t expect to see their young star anytime soon.
“It’s tough,” Thornton said. “I don’t know how long he’s going to go out for — I didn’t see the play, but I know he’s going to be out for a little bit.”
Before discussing the hit itself, let’s get the obvious statement out of the way: Hertl’s absence will definitely be a big setback for the Sharks. The Czech forward has exploded onto the NHL scene, leading all rookies in scoring. Hertl has 15 goals on the year, while Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon is in second place with seven. His play was a big reason why the Sharks have been one of the better teams in the Western Conference this year. While the team has plenty of veteran talent to overcome this loss, it certainly won’t be an easy task.
As for the hit, though it was a devastating one, calling it illegal may be a stretch. Yes, knee-on-knee hits are something the league has been trying to remove for years. The potential for injury is enormous, as seen last night. That said, replays certainly make it appear as if Brown’s hit was accidental. If anything, it looked like he was trying to avoid Hertl at the last second, but failed to do so. He hit the rookie with his right leg, which he wasn’t leading with at the moment of collision. However, the referee s saw these same replays and deemed it enough to eject Brown from the game.
The hit will certainly be debated for at least the next few weeks, perhaps even more if Hertl’s injury is as bad as Thornton anticipates. For what it’s worth, though, Kings coach Darryl Sutter wholeheartedly disagreed with his captain getting ejected.
“That is not the right call,” Sutter said. “Clear. No more questions about it. I saw it live and I saw two or three replays.
“It’s not the right call.”