The NHL suspended the Ducks' James Wisniewski for eight games Thursday, signaling its seriousness about hits that can cause head injuries after Wisniewski left Chicago's Brent Seabrook dazed and crumpled on the ice Wednesday night at the Honda Center.
Seabrook did not return to the game and was not in the lineup for Thursday's game against the Kings. The Blackhawks declined to say whether he has a concussion, only repeating that he has an "upper-body" injury.
Ducks General Manager Bob Murray reacted sharply to the decision, saying Wisniewski deserved to be suspended, but not for so many games. "He crossed the line. He's got to get whacked," he said. "The problem I have is the length of it. It just seems that 'Wiz' at this point, because of the climate of the league, is an easy target."
Wisniewski, who served a two-game suspension this season for a hit on the Phoenix Coyotes' Shane Doan, will forfeit $268,292.72 in pay. "Mr. Wisniewski delivered a retaliatory hit to the head of an opponent who never had possession of the puck," Colin Campbell, NHL senior executive vice president of hockey operations, said. "The fact that Mr. Wisniewski is a repeat offender also entered into this decision."
Wisniewski said he texted Seabrook and left a voice message to apologize.
"I am truly sorry that my friend Brent Seabrook was hurt on the play. I certainly wish him the best," he said in a statement. "I am, however, very disappointed in the length of the suspension. Eight games is incredibly hard to swallow, especially in comparison to other recent hits that have resulted in lesser punishment."
There were heated comments from both teams, with Chicago Coach Joel Quenneville calling that type of hit "the most dangerous hit in the history of the game."
"You hit a guy without the puck, you could kill a guy," he said after the game.
On Thursday, Murray said Chicago "used to be a black-and-blue town. We didn't have whiners. I strongly suggest Joel worries about his goaltending and stops trying to run the National Hockey League."
Of those remarks, Quenneville said only, "It doesn't deserve a comment."
Murray also questioned whether penalties are handed down evenly, alluding to the blindside hit by Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke that resulted in a concussion for Boston's Marc Savard but no suspension, as well as the two-game penalty to Washington's Alexander Ovechkin for a shove that resulted in a broken clavicle and rib for Chicago's Brian Campbell.
"Nothing makes you cringe more than when you see some of the hits this year," Murray said. "All I'm saying is if you're going to get [Wisniewski], get them all."
The eight-game suspension is the longest since Chris Pronger, then with the Ducks, received the same suspension in 2008 for stomping on the leg of Vancouver's Ryan Kesler.
Times staff writer Helene Elliott contributed to this report.