Whatever it is that ails Bobby Ryan could end up ailing the Bruins, if NHL headquarters decides to punish veteran Boston backliner Dennis Seidenberg for his hit on the Senators’ power forward Friday night in Ottawa.
Ryan, smacked in the head by Seidenberg late in the third period of Ottawa’s 4-2 victory, was stable enough Saturday to join the Senators for their full workout in Ottawa. His ability to return to duty could bear some significance, if Brendan Shanahan, the league’s chief disciplinarian, decides to take action on the hit.
“Still reviewing,’’ Shanahan responded via text regarding the case when contacted Saturday afternoon by the Globe.
If Shanahan decides to suspend the 32-year-old Seidenberg, the Bruins, who were off Saturday, almost certainly would recall a defenseman from AHL Providence. The likely candidate would be Kevan Miller, ex- of the University of Vermont, who impressed during training camp but lost out to higher-rated prospects Matt Bartkowski and Torey Krug. Miller has a valued righthand shot and stands up well to physical action.
The Bruins take on the Hurricanes Monday night in Raleigh, N.C., and then face the Rangers the next night at Madison Square Garden, their first visit to New York since eliminating the Blueshirts in last season’s Eastern Conference semifinals.
According to a Canadian Press report out of Ottawa following the Senators’ practice, Ryan arrived at work still feeling the effects of Seidenberg’s hit, which came with about 3:30 remaining in the third period Friday. The hit, noted Ryan, caught him “right on the button,’’ and he did not return to the game after exiting to the dressing room, appearing groggy as he made his way off the ice.
“I felt a lot better [Saturday] than last night, that’s for sure,’’ the 26-year-old Ryan told CP.
The strong, wide-bodied Seidenberg plays a heavy game, and has never been the type of player inclined to smack opponents in the head. He is tough, not dirty, a fact well known around the league. That reputation could serve him well if Shanahan, the head of the league’s Player Safety Department, feels the hit merits some discipline.
According to Seidenberg, he unintentionally smacked Ryan in the midst of the two players converging to make a play for the puck on the wall behind Boston goalie Tuukka Rask. Ryan, he said, was reaching for the puck with his stick when Seidenberg leaned into him, leading with his right elbow, in an attempt to prevent the forward possibly from threading the puck between his legs and going in on Rask with a good scoring chance.
“I would never go after a guy’s head,’’ said Seidenberg. “But I have to play my position.’’
Seidenberg clearly connected with the elbow, but never left his feet while delivering the hit.
Much of the charge of Shanahan’s office is to police hits to the head, in part because of rule changes the league imposed after a rash of devastating smacks, including the one then-Penguin Matt Cooke put on star Bruins center Marc Savard, which ultimately played a huge factor in Savard walking away from the game.
When considering discipline for such hits, Shanahan takes myriad factors into account, including whether he feels the hit was intentional and to what extent, if any, the victim was injured.
It did not appear Seidenberg targeted Ryan nor hit him with malice. The fact that Ryan returned to practice Saturday also could play in Seidenberg’s favor, although it remains questionable whether Ryan will suit up for Sunday’s matinee in Ottawa vs. the Blue Jackets.
With the Bruins not back to work until Monday night, Shanahan could very well wait to see if Ryan plays on Sunday before deciding if he wants to take action.
“I think we’re probably going to consult everybody,’’ Ryan told reporters in Ottawa when asked if he felt he would be ready for the Blue Jackets game. “I felt pretty good, just a lot of stiffness in my upper back and shoulders and neck. But for the most part, no issues as far as my head is concerned.’’
Coach Paul MacLean said he would wait until game day before deciding whether Ryan plays.
“He practiced [Saturday], which is a really good thing,’’ said MacLean.
If Shanahan were to consider action, he first would initiate a hearing with Seidenberg, most likely over the phone. As of early Saturday evening, a hearing had not been scheduled.
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Upon concluding the three-game road swing at MSG, the Bruins will be back in Boston for three straight, beginning with a visit by the Blues on Thursday. The ’Canes are on Causeway Street for a 1 p.m. matinee on Saturday, followed by the Penguins Monday night . . . It’s possible backup goalie Chad Johnson will get the call Monday night, while ex-Boston backup Anton Khudobin could front the ’Canes net. Headed into the weekend, Khudobin has played in only three games and has a 2-0-0 record and a 2.00 goals-against mark. Johnson turned in a strong performance Thursday in Boston’s 3-2 OT win over Columbus.Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com.