With five seconds remaining in the second period of Sunday’s 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers, Flyers’ defenseman Braydon Coburn took a punch at the head Rangers’ forward Nik Antropov, sending him sprawling on the ice clutching his face in his hands. What appeared to be just a punch to the head behind the play, turned into a five minute major and matching game misconduct because Coburn was still clutching his stick at the time, making the play look like an intent to injure.
“I just watched it and I’m not sure it was even a penalty,” said Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren. “I’m not sure if the G.M. meetings influenced the call. But any time we come out of meetings like that, there’s usually some kind of effect.”
Any intent to injure penalty gets a close look by NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell, especially ones involving head injuries. Once Antropov was done auditioning for the refs, he returned to the bench to resume his normal shifts, unaffected by the punch. But Coburn will still likely see a minimum of two games suspension.
“I would hope not,” coach John Stevens said os a suspension. “I asked him what happened and he thought he hit him more with his glove than anything else.”
Just a few shifts earlier, Antropov hit Coburn in the face with his stick. The two went back and forth at each other, throwing cheap shots. When Antropov looked like he was going to take another shot at Coburn, the Flyer reacted in putting up his hands first, spilling Antropov to the ice.
“We were battling all game long,” Coburn said. “I got a pretty good slash to the face and there was another shove there. He looked like he was going to come at me and he turned at the last minute and I kind of caught him in the neck there.”
The loss of Coburn would be a vital one for the Flyers, especially for the upcoming road trip. The orange and black travel to Detroit to take on the always potent Redwings, then to Buffalo and Pittsburgh. Making the situation worse is the loss of defenseman Randy Jones, who left the Rangers game in the second period with a mild hip/groin injury, which should keep him out at least one game. If Jones and Coburn are both lost for any upcoming games, Lasse Kukkonen and Nate Guenin would likely be the callups, making the Flyers desperately thin on the blue line.