Originally created 06/03/04

Flames' Nieminen suspended for Game 5



TAMPA, Fla. -- Calgary Flames left wing Ville Nieminen was suspended Wednesday for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals, two days after ramming Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier's head into the glass.

Nieminen drew a 5-minute major penalty for boarding and a game misconduct for ramming Lecavalier from behind while the Tampa Bay center was digging the puck out from along the boards late in Game 4. Lecavalier struck the glass face-first.

Lecavalier was cut on the right side of his head, requiring stitches, and appeared to be groggy. But he said before practicing Wednesday he felt fine and planned to play Thursday.

"Of course I was a little dizzy, but half an hour after the game I felt great," he said. "No headaches, nothing."

The Flames asked the NHL why Nieminen was suspended and the Lightning's Cory Stillman wasn't for a hit on the Flames' Marcus Nilson earlier in the series, but NHL director of hockey operations Colin Campbell said the two plays were different.

Campbell said the Stillman hit wasn't excessive and came from the side, not the rear to an undefended player as Nieminen's did.

"Nieminen used his forearm to deliver a forceful hit from behind to the head of his opponent," Campbell said. "This hit was more severe than any of the other plays that were brought to our attention during the final.

"This was a hit that clearly crossed the line and was directed at the head. Even if Lecavalier is able to play in Game 5, this type of hit must be subject to supplemental discipline."

Nieminen said Monday night he didn't think he should be suspended. He didn't accompany the Flames to Tampa.

"He was two feet or so away from the boards," said Nieminen, who is fifth in the playoffs with 55 penalty minutes. "I was just finishing my check. I didn't have the speed on that hit. I didn't take any strides or anything. It was a board battle."

Flames coach Darryl Sutter was irritated by the suspension but said it was "expected."

"It holds up to what's happened in the playoffs to date," Sutter said. "Was it shocking to you (the media) that they suspended him? No, it wasn't to us either."

Nieminen also was suspended for Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals against Detroit for charging goalie Curtis Joseph with four seconds remaining in Game 4.

Lecavalier was the third Lightning player to be injured during the final. Right wing Ruslan Fedotenko (facial cut, possible concussion) and defenseman Pavel Kubina (lower body injury, possible concussion) sat out Game 4, and their status for Game 5 also is uncertain.