Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 5/6/12
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Coyotes defenseman Rusty Klesla was suspended Sunday by the NHL for one game for his hit on Predators forward Matt Halischuk in Game 4 of their Western Conference semifinal series Friday in Nashville. Klesla shoved Halischuk from behind into the boards in front of the Coyotes' bench at 6:39 of the first period. Replays also showed Klesla grabbing Halischuk's jersey before pushing him into the boards. In his ruling, NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan ruled that this act left Halischuk defenseless, which contributed to the suspension. The fact that Halischuk wasnt injured on the play contributed to the short length of the suspension, Shanahan said. Predators coach Barry Trotz called it "a really dangerous hit in my eyes," on a conference call Saturday. "When you do that whiplash effect of pulling the shirt and then driving him, it was really fortunate that Halischuk did sort of spin at the last moment." Halischuk left the game for a short period but later returned. Klesla received a two-minute penalty for boarding. Klesla was suspended once before. In 2006, he was suspended two games for a hit on Chicago forward Tuomo Ruutu in a preseason game. But Shanahan noted it was for a different sort of play, implying that it did not factor into Sundays ruling. Klesla has six points in the playoffs and has been rock steady on defense, logging 20:37 of ice time in Game 4, the third-highest total on the team. David Schlemko will likely replace him for Game 5 on Monday, with the defensive pairings uncertain after coach Dave Tippett experimented with a few combinations at Sundays practice. After Sundays practice, Tippett said of the hit: "From looking at it, I have a hard time thinking it will be a suspension, but Im not the one that has the ruling on it." The decision will no doubt raise the ire of hockey fans across the country, who have more fuel for the fire while labeling Shanahans punishment inconsistent in the wake of Washington forward Alex Ovechkins unpunished hit on New York Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi and Chicago forward Jimmy Hayes hit from behind on Phoenix defenseman Michal Rozsival earlier in the playoffs that also didnt elicit a hearing. THE CLOSE-OUT MYTH The Coyotes are 0-5 in their Valley history when they have a chance to close out a playoff series on home ice, including a loss to the Blackhawks in Game 5 of their opening-round series this year. Players will tell you the fourth game is the hardest to win in a series, and most media outlets will repeat it like a mantra while never really questioning the basis of that notion. Tippett is not a fan of generalizations, though, and doesnt put much stock in this one either. The desperation level should be there all the time, anyway, he said. Its a must-win (for Nashville), but every game in the playoffs is a must-win. We recognize what their situation is, but we also recognize that if we can get a win, we can move on. Both teams should have the same emotion level. If the Coyotes do win Monday, they could have a week off before the Western Conference finals begin. Early indications are that series wont begin until May 14 or 15. The Los Angeles Kings have already clinched a spot in the conference finals with a sweep of the St. Louis Blues, becoming the first No. 8 seed to dispatch a No. 1 and No. 2 seed in the same postseason. MAN-SCAPING MILESTONES Shane Doan was poking fun Sunday at his scraggly playoff beard, which he has struggled to grow on his perpetual baby face. "It's embarrassing, Doan said Sunday, but I'm happy to still have one." There are a few Coyotes who have experienced deep playoff runs, such as Ray Whitney, Antoine Vermette, Daymond Langkow, Boyd Gordon and Taylor Pyatt, but defenseman Derek Morris noted that for the majority of Coyotes, this is a new experience. Weve got quite a few with record growth this year, he said. INJURY UPDATE Tippett said forward Lauri Korpikoski had a good skate Sunday and is getting closer to returning to the lineup. If Korpikoski does return for Game 5, Marc-Antoine Pouliot would be the logical man out, although Pouliot has played well, particularly on the defensive end of the ice.
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