Hurricanes’ Jiri Tlusty Jacked by Blue Jackets’ Jack Johnson

Jiri Tlusty was the recipient of a hit to the head in Tuesday night’s match between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Columbus Blue Jackets. The ‘Canes won the game 4-2, but could possibly have lost a key player in Tlusty as a result of the hit by Jack Johnson. The hit occurred in the 3rd period and caused Tlusty to leave the ice and not return to the game. Afterwards, Tlusty said “I feel fine.”

Today, the Hurricanes confirmed that Jiri Tlusty is doing well, had some tests today and will have more on Thursday.

The incident between Jack Johnson and Tlusty did not appear to be altogether malevolent.

However, Johnson did continue toward Tlusty after he had already gotten rid of the puck, having passed it to Eric Staal. He checked him hard with his shoulder to the head.

There was some question after the hit as to whether or not the Hurricanes would again be victim of a player being hit in the head without repercussions from the league. (Earlier this preseason, Jeff Skinner was elbowed hard in the head by Matt Niskanen of the Washington Capitals. Resulting in a concussion and much lost time for Skinner, it was a blow that was neither part of ongoing play or incidental to part of the game. To the outrage of many ‘Canes fans, the blatant forearm to Skinner’s head was neither penalized nor addressed by the league.)

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In Jiri Tlusty’s case, the officials on hand did give Johnson a penalty for an illegal check to the head. Wednesday morning it was revealed that there could be further repercussions, as Johnson would be the subject of an NHL hearing regarding the hit on Tlusty.

The NHL ruled that while Tlusty should have reasonably expected to be checked after passing the puck to Staal, he should not have expected that the check would be in the area of his head. In essence, the check was not late, just poorly placed. (A full explanation from the league can be found here.)

 Jiri Tlusty is not a wimp.

Averaging right at 31 points each of the past three season, Jiri Tlusty is a solid player with an excellent work ethic. The 26-year old Czech makes the Carolina Hurricanes better and is a fan favorite.

Jack Johnson is not regarded as a dirty player or as a goon. He recently played in his 500th career NHL game. He is as vital to the Blue Jackets as Tlusty is to the Hurricanes. However, this vitality will be taking a 3-game break per the NHL. Ian McLaren of The Score has the details here. The suspension means that the Blue Jackets will be sans Jack Johnson when they come to Raleigh this Friday. We will see if Johnson’s ill-advised hit will leave the ‘Canes without a healthy Jiri Tlusty.

Other game notes

The hit on Tlusty notwithstanding, the game was another good outing for the Hurricanes. Two of my personal favorite Hurricanes, Zach Boychuck and Riley Nash scored to put the ‘Canes up 2-0 in the first period.

Nick Foligno later made it 2-1 on the first of his two goals for the Blue Jackets. But, the night belonged to the Hurricanes. Taking a 3-1 lead into the third period – Justin Faulk having added a shorthanded unassisted goal in the 2nd – it was “Wardo” time.

The Blue Jackets came hard, as Foligno got his second goal at 14:37. After that, Cam Ward stepped into the zone he has been in over the past three games, and it was game over. He made a number of great saves in the last five minutes and continued to justify Coach Peters’ starting him in each game.

After the game, Ward continued to deflect praise from himself and place it onto his teammates:

“I saw a lot of cluster in front of me, but the puck never seemed to get to me. That’s a compliment to the guys.”

There is no doubt who Coach Peters will keep in the net as long as Cam Ward continues to play as well as he has played in November. He has looked very much like the goalie Hurricanes have loved, yet longed to see return after his bout with injuries. This could be the year for Cam to be Cam. ‘Canes fans sure hope so.

Alexander Semin returned to the ice

After being a healthy scratch for two games, Coach Peters put Alexander Semin back into Carolina’s lineup, actually on the top line with Eric Staal and Jiri Tlusty. The jury is still out, but from my perspective Semin did not impress. He was okay.

Nobody was expecting Semin to have a 5-point game, but he did nothing to separate himself from mediocrity. He garnered 19 shifts for 12:28 of ice time, and zeroes across the stat line. We will have to wait for Coach Peters to comment as to what he saw. A fan texted me that he “was not impressed.” Perhaps that is the point – if one plays within the system, one will not stand out or draw attention to oneself.

Captain Eric Staal got the empty net goal at the end to make the final tally 4-2, Carolina. These same Blue Jackets will grace Raleigh’s PNC Arena Friday night. Will November continue to be the Hurricanes’ month? If the team continues to play as they have so far this month, it is likely to be a very nice first Friday night in November for the ‘Canes.



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