BOSTON - Nathan Horton is out for rest of the Stanley Cup finals. And so is Vancouver Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome.
The Boston Bruins announced Tuesday that the 26-year-old Horton, who is tied for second on the team with 17 points this postseason, suffered a severe concussion in Game 3 at TD Garden.
The NHL, which has taken heat for its inconsistent rulings, then came down on Rome. Vice president of hockey operation Mike Murphy suspended Rome four games for his late shoulder-to-head hit on a puck-less Horton. (See the video here.) If the finals end before Game 7, Rome's suspension will carry over into next season.
Murphy said the suspension was for lateness of the hit and that Rule 48 (a lateral or blind side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principal point of contact is not permitted) was not applicable.
"[It was] lateness combined with the injury," he said. "This isn't Rule 48. This has nothing to do with Rule 48. This is just an inference penalty, an interference hit. If it was immediate after he released the puck, it would have been a legal hit. I know we have them all the time."
The league's inconsistent and unpredictable rulings on injury-causing hits has led to endless criticism. But Murphy said "without question" the NHL will take more serious approach to viewing these type of hits.
"It's the league's decision," winger Milan Lucic said. "Regardless, it doesn't bring Nathan back for us. So if you look at it, it's a guy for a guy, a player for a player."
That would favor the Canucks, seeing that Rome was their fifth or sixth defenseman. Horton was on the Bruins' top line.
"I think it's important for the whole league to protect our players from those type of hits," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "Whether you agree or not, you support [the NHL]. I supported them for the [Alex] Burrows' decision and I'm supporting with this one as well.
"We lost a pretty good player. I'm obviously glad to know that it's not as bad as you suspect [especially] for him to be out [of the hospital] and gone back home. It's a long road to recovery, but hopefully he gets better soon."
Horton has reached out to some teammates, including his linemate Lucic.
"He sent me a birthday wish today, which is nice," Lucic said. "It was good that he remembered my birthday after having a concussion. It was good to see he's responding and doing well. The main thing right now is his health."
Rome issued a statement through the Canucks: "I want to express my concern for Nathan's well being and wish him a quick and full recovery. I try to play this game honestly and with integrity. As someone who has experienced this type of injury I am well aware of itsserious nature and have no desire for another player to experience it. I will not take away my teammates' focus on the task at hand and intend to speak at an appropriate time in future."