SAN JOSE -- Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson will have a hearing Sunday with the NHL’s department of player safety following his second-period hit that caused Los Angeles Kings winger Austin Wagner to leave Saturday afternoon’s game.
San Jose’s Erik Karlsson will have a hearing tomorrow for an illegal check to the head on Los Angeles’ Austin Wagner.— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) December 23, 2018
With 17:25 remaining in the second period of San Jose’s 3-2 overtime loss to Los Angeles, Wagner received a pass and broke out of his own zone. Karlsson skated across the neutral zone, and leveled the Kings winger.
Wagner appeared woozy while skating to the Los Angeles bench, and left the game with what the Kings termed an “upper-body injury.” In the moment, it appeared Karlsson drove his shoulder through Wagner’s, but replays indicated the Sharks defenseman made contact with Wagner’s head.
After the game, Karlsson said he hoped Wagner would be able to recover, but he defended the hit as a clean play.
“It’s one of those plays [where] I’m closing [the] gap, and he skates into me,” Karlsson said after the game, and prior to the announcement. “I don’t really lean into him, I’m in his lane, and it’s a shoulder-to-shoulder hit.
“Unfortunately, he went down hard, and he didn’t come back, and I hope he’s OK. But at the end of the day, it’s a hockey play.”
Karlsson wasn’t penalized for an illegal check to the head. Rule 48.1, which covers the penalty, states that a hit “where the head was the main point of contact and such contact to the head was avoidable is not permitted.”
During the second intermission of NBCSN’s broadcast of the game, studio analyst Mike Johnson said he didn’t believe Karlsson’s hit was dirty or ill-intentioned. But, he said, he thought the hit would warrant a one- or two-game suspension from the NHL since Karlsson didn’t hit “enough of the body" of Wagner.
“When you come at a guy at that angle, it’s hard to get enough body,” Johnson said. “He just got a little too much arm, and way too much head. So, despite his relatively innocent history in the NHL, I do believe he will be suspended for this -- and I think he should. Probably a game or two, because that’s just a hit you cannot make anymore.”
The NHL didn’t immediately announce whether or not Karlsson would have an in-person or a phone hearing. If it’s the latter, Karlsson will be suspended for five games or fewer, or fined upwards of $5,000.
An in-person hearing seems unlikely, as Karlsson doesn’t have an extensive history of supplemental discipline. He once was fined $2,500 for a slash during the 2011-12 season, and he has never been suspended. Since that suspension occurred over 18 months ago, he will not be considered a repeat offender.
The department will consider Karlsson’s on-ice history, as well as the intention of his hit, Wagner’s injury, “the situation of the game in which the incident occurred,” and “other factors as may be appropriate,” according to Article 18.2 of the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement.