GLENDALE, Ariz. – A questionable hit from the Los Angeles Kings ended the Phoenix Coyotes’ season in 2012 and another one started it in 2013.
A knee-on-knee collision between Kings captain Dustin Brown and then-Coyotes defenseman Michal Rozsival preceded the game-winning goal in overtime for the Kings in Game 5 of the 2012 Western Conference finals.
Ever since then, the rivalry between the Pacific Division foes has been spiked with animosity.
And apparently, bad blood doesn’t sleep in the preseason.
Midway through the first period of their preseason opener Sunday at Jobing.Com Arena, Kings center Jordan Nolan leveled defenseman Rusty Klesla with an open-ice hit.
Klesla hit the ice face-down and was motionless, although his leg shook briefly. Trainers and doctors had to roll Klesla from his stomach to his back onto a stretcher, and a neck brace was used.
“He got his bell rung pretty good,” coach Dave Tippett said. “I’m not sure exactly what they’re looking at.”.
Wing Radim Vrbata skated alongside Klesla as he was carted off and appeared to talk to him. Klesla was able to wave to the crowd as he exited the ice.
Klesla was looked at by doctors at the arena before going to hospital for further evaluation.
Klesla was alert and conscious.
“We’ll find out a little more by (this morning),” Tippett said.
In-house video replay showed that as Klesla was looking down at the puck on his stick, Nolan led with his shoulder to Klesla’s head and left his feet on the follow-through. The league will most likely review the hit.
Rule 48 describes a hit to the head where the head is targeted or is the principal point of contact as illegal. Positioning and if the recipient put himself in a vulnerable spot is also considered.
“It seemed to me like a guy got hit in the head, and a player left his feet,” Tippett said. “But that’s not for me to diagnose. The league does a good job of those and when they feel like there’s a violation committed, they take action.”.
Nolan was assessed a two-minute roughing penalty but was targeted as soon as he returned to the ice, and a batch of penalties were handed out as a result of the player scrum.
“I thought it was clean,” Nolan said to lakingsinsider.Com about the hit. “He was skating through the middle of his ice, and I was just focusing on his chest , and I feel like I hit him square in the chest.”.
Nolan was handed a two-minute minor for embellishment and a 10-minute misconduct. Coyotes protector Paul Bissonnette was slapped with the most severe punishment — a game-misconduct for leaving the bench.
Nolan’s hit led to a choppy and chippy finish, with the Coyotes rallying for a 4-2 win.
The Coyotes were down 2-0 after giving up breakaway goals within the first three minutes, but their special teams play was a highlight.
“If you can take anything out of the first game that’s a positive, that would be it,” Tippett said.
Wing Jordan Szwarz scored short-handed in the first, and wing Mikkel Boedker and captain Shane Doan both had power-play goals in the second.
The prettiest goal came on a short-handed, three-on-one attack with prospect Max Domi, center Martin Hanzal and defenseman Keith Yandle in the third with Yandle finishing the passing sequence with an easy tap-in.
Sarah McLellan writes for the Arizona Republic, a Gannett property.