The Tampa Bay Lightning received good news Monday afternoon when the NHL announced it would not suspend forward Ryan Malone for his hit to the head of the Montreal Canadiens' Chris Campoli during the Bolts' preseason finale last Friday, a 5-1 defeat. In the third period, Malone checked Campoli in the head, knocking the Montreal defenseman out of the game.
But Brendan Shanahan, the NHL's Senior Vice President of Player Safety and Hockey Operations, determined Malone's hit was legal, if only by a slim margin. "We felt that Malone had committed to the hit when Campoli was upright," Shanahan said in a statement. "However, when the contact was made, Campoli's head position significantly changed just prior to the hit."
This news comes as a surprise to John Fontana of Raw Charge, SB Nation's Lightning blog. "Ryan Malone will be sitting to start the NHL season," he wrote Saturday. "How many games is anyone's guess until Shanahan hands down his decree." Kevin van Steendelaar of Habs Eyes On The Prize was less diplomatic; he wondered if someone "urinated in [Malone's] orange juice" the morning of the game, prompting his check on Campoli and his other aggressive behavior.
The Lightning, who finished the preseason with a 3-4 record, begin their season with Malone in tow this Friday, Oct. 7, against the Carolina Hurricanes. The home opener is scheduled for Oct. 17, when the Lightning host the Florida Panthers.
Malone is set to start his fourth season with Tampa Bay. Last season, he ranked No. 6 on the team in scoring, with 38 points in 54 games.