Red Wings left wing Justin Abdelkader drops Ducks defenseman Toni Lydman… (John T. Greilick / Associated…)
DETROIT — The last thing Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said before leaving the podium a few hours before Game 3 was something of a cross between cautionary and prescient.
"You hope it doesn't become a special-teams game because usually that ends up in controversy somehow," he said.
Just how did that turn out for the Ducks and Red Wings?
Anaheim is expected to be without veteran defenseman Toni Lydman for Game 4 Monday night, and the Ducks will be facing an altered Detroit lineup at a crucial time. The Red Wings' top line, the one that carried them into the playoffs, was dismantled when the NHL suspended forward Justin Abdelkader for two games for his hit on Lydman late in the second period in Game 3 on Saturday.
It was one of those decisions that pleased almost no one — outraging Detroit's fan base, which saw it as too harsh, but far too light in the eyes of some Ducks followers.
Abdelkader had been an effective force with the highly skilled Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. But the suspension forces the Red Wings to look for a quick solution because their season could be over by the time Abdelkader returns.
The Ducks lead the Western Conference quarterfinals, two games to one. They beat Detroit, 4-0, in Game 3, scoring three third-period goals, and the Red Wings were 0 for 6 on the power play.
Brendan Shanahan, the NHL's chief disciplinarian, announced the suspension Sunday night, saying: "As the video shows, Abdelkader skates a considerable distance and elevates to violently check Lydman, making significant head contact."
Shanahan later said that the elevation at contact turned "what could have been a hard full-body check into a high violent check with significant contact to the head that caused an injury."
Though Abdelkader was not a repeat offender, the decision noted Lydman's injury. The defenseman left the game and did not return.
Lydman's history would suggest great caution is required. He suffered two concussions in less than a month with the Calgary Flames in 2004, missed most of the playoffs and returned for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final against Tampa Bay.
Lydman did not practice with his teammates Sunday at Joe Louis Arena and the Ducks reported that he was suffering from migraines and a sore neck. Defenseman Sheldon Souray, a healthy scratch in Game 3, would be in place to move into the lineup.
"Bright lights are bugging him," Boudreau said. "I don't know when that's not going to be there. If we're going minute by minute and day by day, tomorrow is very questionable for him."
The Ducks declined to comment on the suspension and said they would address it Monday. But after practice, and hours before the decision, the Ducks' Teemu Selanne carefully thought about the incident before commenting.
"Let's put it this way: I think that [those] kind of hits are totally unnecessary," he said.
Said Boudreau: "I think it's a big loss. He's played very valuable minutes down the stretch and he's played in big playoff games in the past. . . . He doesn't rattle easily.
"He's one of those guys you don't see a lot of flash from, but at the end of the day, he doesn't make a lot of mistakes."