Nazem Kadri

Nazem Kadri suspension: How Leafs lineup could change vs. Bruins without center

Nazem Kadri suspension: How Leafs lineup could change vs. Bruins without center

Nazem Kadri was suspended Monday for the rest of the Toronto Maple Leafs' first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Boston Bruins after cross-checking B's forward Jake DeBrusk in Game 2.

The immediate challenge for the Leafs entering Monday night's Game 3 at Scotiabank Arena is finding a third line that can drive puck possession and score goals in Kadri's absence.

Kadri was the team's third-line center between wingers Patrick Marleau and William Nylander in the first two games of the series -- the Leafs and Bruins split those matchups in Boston. The most logical choice to replace Kadri down the middle is Nylander, and that's how Toronto lined up during Monday's morning skate.

Here are the lines used:

Zach Hyman--John Tavares--Mitch Marner
Andreas Johnsson--Auston Matthews--Kasperi Kapanen
Patrick Marleau--William Nylander--Connor Brown
Trevor Moore--Frederik Gauthier--Tyler Ennis

Nylander scored a goal in the Leafs' Game 1 win and picked up an assist on Toronto's lone goal in Game 2. There shouldn't be too much concern within the Leafs about Nylander playing well at center. He's certainly skilled enough to create scoring chances for himself and teammates.

That said, the Leafs have suffered in terms of puck possession and scoring output when Nylander has been with Brown and Marleau during 5-on-5 play. If Toronto is struggling to score in Game 3 and/or later in the series, Leafs head coach Mike Babcock should move Nylander to a line with faster, more skilled teammates.

The player who most needs to improve his performance in Kadri's absence is Auston Matthews.

The 21-year-old superstar is scoreless through two games of this series, and he tallied only one goal and one assist in seven games between these teams in last season's first-round matchup. Matthews has scored 111 goals over the last three seasons, so he needs to play much better for Toronto to have the scoring depth necessary to beat a deep Bruins team. Mitch Marner and John Tavares cannot be asked to carry most of the scoring burden, especially when they're always up against defensive stalwarts Patrice Bergeron and/or Zdeno Chara.

Kadri's suspension hurts the Leafs at one of the most important positions. His teammates, most notably Matthews and Nylander, must pick up the slack without him or the Bruins could send the Leafs home with another early playoff exit.

Bruins vs. Leafs Game 3 live stream>>>

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Nazem Kadri suspended for rest of Bruins-Leafs playoff series for cross-check

Nazem Kadri suspended for rest of Bruins-Leafs playoff series for cross-check

TORONTO – The Bruins won’t have to worry about the antics of Nazem Kadri for the rest of the first round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The greasy Maple Leafs forward was suspended “for the rest of the playoff series against the Boston Bruins” by the NHL Department of Player Safety for his cross-check to the face of Jake DeBrusk in Boston’s 4-1 win in Game 2 on Saturday night. Kadri and DeBrusk were taking runs at each other for the balance of the chippy, rough playoff contest, but Kadri clearly lost control after watching DeBrusk check Patrick Marleau into the corner stanchion by the B’s bench.

The NHL Department of Player Safety made it clear in the accompanying video that they didn’t like what Kadri did away from the puck, and using his stick as a weapon aimed at the head of an opposing player: “This is not a hockey play. Instead this is a player retaliating against an opponent by using his stick as a weapon to make forceful and direct head contact. Players are simply not permitted to flagrantly violate league playing rules because they feel retribution is justified.”

The NHL Department of Player Safety also mentioned Kadri’s status as a repeat offender having been suspended a year ago in the playoffs, and that he’s also been suspended for a retaliatory cross-check to the head in the past having done something similar to Detroit’s Luke Glendening.

It marks the second straight postseason that the hot-headed Kadri has taken himself out of a playoff series against the Bruins after he was suspended for three games last spring for checking Tommy Wingels’ head into the boards. It also depletes Toronto’s center depth that was expected to be a big advantage for them in the first round playoff series, and leaves the Leafs without one of their best two-way players in a series where they could have really used him. 

Here's how Leafs' lineup could change without Kadri>>>

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Bruins ready to let league deal with Nazem Kadri's cross-check

Bruins ready to let league deal with Nazem Kadri's cross-check

BOSTON – The Bruins certainly have seen this movie before after watching Nazem Kadri get suspended in last spring’s first round playoff series for a predatory hit on Tommy Wingels. Kadri is facing an even longer suspension this time around with an in-person hearing scheduled with the NHL Department of Player Safety after the Maple Leafs center cross-checked Jake DeBrusk in the face during Boston’s 4-1 win over Toronto in Game 2 at TD Garden.

DeBrusk and Kadri had been going at each other for the entire game with temperatures rising in both players, but the Leafs center finally lost it after watching DeBrusk throw a hit on Patrick Marleau at the stanchion near the Bruins bench. Kadri then skated over to DeBrusk away from the play and blatantly cross-checked DeBrusk in the head before driving him to the ice in a dirty, dangerous play.

After the game, the Leafs hid Kadri away from the media without any comment and a somewhat dazed DeBrusk mostly wanted to avoid comment about the incident.

“First [altercation, was a] scrum on the wall. Two guys going at it. I thought second period, I believe it was Jake hit Kadri [leg-on-leg], but I thought it was clean. Looking back at it, it was shoulder to shoulder. Obviously, Kadri stayed down and that’s his prerogative when he gets hit,” said Bruce Cassidy. “And the last one, I don’t know if it was an altercation. I think he came over and cross checked [DeBrusk] in the face. I assume that would be dealt with or looked at [by NHL Player Safety] and go from there.”

DeBrusk also addressed the “leg-on-leg” hit in the second period where it appeared he was trying to throw a shoulder hit and Kadri went flying after trying to sidestep the hit at the last second, and affirmed that he “is not a dirty player.” The NHL would certainly seem to be backing him up with no penalty on the play, and no follow-up from the NHL Department of Player Safety involving the collision.

“I think that’s up to the league to decide to be honest. It’s kind of a blur to be honest,” said DeBrusk, who appeared a bit dazed after the game and said he’d undergone some tests to determine if he was injured. “I think it was, from what I remember, it was... it was high. I felt it in my face. Yeah, that’s all I’ve got to say about that.”

Kadri was suspended for three games last spring for his hit on a vulnerable Wingels into the boards, and his status as a repeat playoff offender along with the dangerous nature of the incident certainly got the NHL’s attention in the worst way possible. The in-game hearing means that the league is considering a suspension of longer than five games for the Maple Leafs agitator, and that would effectively leave him disqualified for the rest of the playoff series against the Bruins.

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