Oilers’ Draisaitl on Barkov hit: ‘Not a player that plays with intent to injure’

Oilers’ Draisaitl on Barkov hit: ‘Not a player that plays with intent to injure’

Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Edmonton Oilers and Florida Panthers was a chippy affair and it all came to a head midway through the third period, when Leon Draisaitl laid a high hit on Aleksander Barkov that took the Panthers captain out of the game.

Draisaitl was assessed a two-minute minor penalty for roughing, which didn’t go over well with the Panthers — “This isn’t the Oprah Winfrey Show, my feelings don’t matter,” head coach Paul Maurice famously said post-game — and concern surrounding Barkov’s health grew.

But the 29-year-old German evaded suspension, Barkov escaped the worst-case scenario and cooler heads seemed to have prevailed.

“First of all, I think we all know that I’m not a player that plays with intent to injure anybody, by any means,” Draisaitl told reporters on Thursday, ahead of Game 3 in Edmonton. “I’m not a player that enjoys that part of the game, injuring other players or anything like that. I caught him in an unfortunate spot, and I’ll leave it at that.

“I can’t stress enough that I’m not someone who plays the game of hockey wanting to injure.”

Though Draisaitl is correct in that he has no nefarious track record with the department of player safety, receiving a suspension in the Stanley Cup Final is a high bar to clear. Over the last 13 years, only three suspensions have been handed out during the final round of the tournament (2011 and 2019), and two of those stemmed from plays that resulted in serious injuries.

Barkov took to the ice for Panthers’ practice on Wednesday and Thursday, and is expected to be available for Game 3, which is welcome news for both the Panthers and the Oilers. If Barkov had been expected to miss significant time, Draisaitl’s fate may have been much different.

Draisaitl escaped discipline from the league, but there’s no guarantee he won’t face retaliation from a Panthers squad that arrived in Edmonton with a 2-0 series lead.

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