Brendan Smith’s parents had flown into New York to watch their son play at the Garden on Monday against the Islanders.
Which they were able to do for one second.
That is because, after coming on for his first shift at 2:12, Smith received a game misconduct at 2:13 for engaging in a secondary fight with Matt Martin. Referees Frederick L’Ecuyer and Steve Kozari applied Rule 46.7, which mandates a game misconduct for “any player who is assessed a major penalty for fighting after the original altercation has started.”
The fight occurred after Micheal Haley had fought Ross Johnston at 2:12. As the teams lined up for the ensuing draw in front of the Islanders’ bench, Martin engaged Smith just as linesman Tony Sericolo pulled back from dropping the puck in order to wave Greg McKegg out of the circle.
So instead of fighting in conjunction with the draw, the two combatants unintentionally violated the letter of the law. The referees, after a huddle with the linesmen, went with the broken windows approach to policing. Thing is, they could have excused Smith regardless, because the rule does not grant discretion on the game misconduct if one player is the clear aggressor. That was Martin.
“I don’t blame Matt at all,” Smith, who will get another shot against Martin and the Islanders on Thursday at the Coliseum, told The Post. “I know what he’s trying to do for their team, trying to get momentum, but what choice do I have there? I either let myself get beaten up by not engaging or I get thrown out of the game if I do.
“Matt’s trying to get a grip on me, he didn’t want to square off, and that’s OK, but I have to be able to protect myself and respond. He didn’t know the linesman was going to have kind of a fake drop, there. It was a consensual fight, no damage was done. It’s not Matt’s fault, but I think I got the short end of it.
“I think Steve and Fred cost me a game, unfortunately.”
And Smith’s parents a chance to see their son on the ice for more than one second.
Brendan Lemieux, sidelined for the past eight games since sustaining a broken left hand when struck by a puck on Dec. 27, participated in practice for the first time but there is no timetable for his return. Lemieux has been skating through his rehab process.
“He just got cleared, so day-to-day,” coach David Quinn said. “When we feel like he’s ready, he’ll go in.”
Pavel Buchnevich, who has been under the weather, missed practice but is expected to play on Thursday.
Quinn explained the organization’s decision to send Libor Hajek to the AHL Wolf Pack on Tuesday. The 21-year-old defenseman sustained a right knee sprain on Dec. 5 that sidelined him for 16 games and just over one month before a one-game return in St. Louis last Saturday in place of the injured Marc Staal. Hajek was a healthy scratch on Monday.
“He missed a lot of hockey and probably wasn’t going to play much here going into the break,” Quinn said, referring to the eight-day All-Star break/bye period that begins next Wednesday. “So he gets the chance to go down and play in some meaningful games, get back into game mode.
“He needs to get his confidence back. He puts a lot of pressure on himself. Each player is different, some guys are going to be able to step in right away and feel comfortable, but I think with Libor’s situation it’s better for him to go down and play some games for Hartford.”
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