Montreal Canadiens forward Lars Eller remains hospitalized this afternoon after being on the receiving end of a bone crushing and likely illegal hit by Ottawa Senators defenseman Eric Gryba. The hit occurred in open ice at around the six-and-a-half minute mark of the second period on Thursday night. Eller got a blind pass from a teammate and was immediately leveled by Gryba and had to be carried off the ice on a stretcher.
Gryba is meeting with the NHL to determine whether the hit will result in a suspension and how long that suspension will be. According to Gryba, the hit wasn’t malicous, rather just something that happened to fast to even react properly.
“I stepped up to make a hit. I kept my shoulder down. He received the puck by the time I hit him,” Gryba said, via ESPN. “My elbow was down and there was no intent to hurt him whatsoever and I hope that he’s OK. I’m not out here to hurt anybody and it’s never good seeing anything like that. I hope he makes a full and speedy recovery.”
Obviously you don’t want to believe the hit by Gryba was intentional, and after viewing the replay it could be argued that the incident did happen to fast for anyone to react. Still, the NHL isn’t fond of open ice hits like the one Gryba laid on Eller and it doesn’t help that it resulted in a bloody mess which still has Eller in the hospital.
Raffi Torres was suspended 25 games last year by the NHL after an open ice body slam of Marian Hossa, but in that incident Torres was malicious in his intent and the fact that he left the ice and leapt into the air to deliver the blow to Hossa was a major reason for the massive suspension. That doesn’t appear to be the case here, as Gryba’s skates never left the ice, but it also didn’t look like it was a total accident, and even the Habs defenseman admits he had time to knowingly lower his shoulder.
The NHL is ruling on Friday on what to do with Gryba, but having him sit as long as Eller is out seems to be the proper response to this, as the last thing the NHL needs is for another straight Stanley Cup Playoff to get out of control.