On Thursday, Jan. 12, the Los Angeles Kings were beaten by the Dallas Stars 5-4 when Loui Eriksson scored the deciding goal in the shootout. Eriksson also had two goals in regulation to lead the Stars.
These two teams have been playing tight games throughout the season, and Thursday night's showdown was no different. However, since the Kings' suddenly revived offense scored four goals in this matchup, this game was drastically different than what I expected to watch. Yet, I also didn't expect Anze Kopitar to leave the game with an upper body injury after being checked by the Stars' Brendan Morrow with 7:48 left in the third period.
Hopefully, Kopitar isn't out of the lineup very long. ESPN reported that he had a bloody nose and a sore shoulder and neck, but I'm not sure if that's all he suffered. If you watch the video of the hit, Kopitar appeared to be groggy when he was helped off the ice. I hope he didn't sustain a concussion.
I replayed Morrow's check on Kopitar multiple times, and I believe it was a clean hit. He didn't target Kopitar's head, and Morrow certainly avoided ramming the Kings forward into the boards. But despite believing it was a clean hit, it wasn't a necessary hit. Hockey is a physical game, but with all of the head injuries running rampant throughout hockey, I'd expect players to be more careful than Morrow was on Thursday night.
Morrow didn't need to lean in on Kopitar when he checked the Kings forward, and he certainly didn't have to exert the amount of force he used on the hit. Morrow has spent his fair share of time on the injured list in the past few years, and if there is anyone who should understand the ramifications of their actions on the ice, it would be him.
I'm not trying to say that contact should be taken out of the game. I'm not arguing that the NHL should become a no-contact league. However, players need to be more careful. Concussions are affecting the NHL far too much for my liking, and the only way to rectify that is for both the league and its players to back off on needless physicality. Morrow could have checked Kopitar without sending him halfway to Mars. He didn't need to leave the Kings star in a heap on the ice.
Derek Ciapala has been a Kings fan since the late 1980s. His favorite Kings moment is when they beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games to qualify for the 1993 Stanley Cup Finals. You can follow him on Twitter @dciapala.