MINNEAPOLIS - The Minnesota Wild was on a power play and Kevin Fiala was trying to steal the puck last Thursday night, before Matt Roy of the L.A. Kings could clear it.
Fiala came flying in, couldn’t stop fast enough and smashed Roy head-first into the boards. It was the second period of a game the Wild would win 5-3, but Fiala’s night was over. He was assessed a five-minute major for boarding, and a game misconduct.
"I didn’t mean to hit him at all. I felt very, very bad. It was an accident, I really didn’t mean to hit him at all. It was just a bad play. After that I reached out to him and made sure he was fine. I really felt bad," Fiala said Wednesday.
The following day, Fiala heard from the NHL Player Safety panel. He was suspended three games for the hit. The Wild went 1-2 over that stretch, which ended with Minnesota losing at Colorado 2-1 Tuesday night.
Dean Evason said Wednesday it wasn’t a dirty play, but it serves as a learning experience for the 24-year-old.
"There’s a balance for Kevin, a balance of playing on the edge, playing with a chip and not taking it over the edge and taking undisciplined penalties. We don’t believe the hit was intentional, obviously it was a circumstance where they came together. But he was playing with some bite, he was playing the game with a lot of pace," Evason said.
The next time the Wild takes the ice, Fiala will be back on it with his teammates. They’ll welcome him back with open arms. Marcus Foligno is on the NHL’s COVID-19 list, and Matt Dumba and Marcus Johansson are out with injuries.
Fiala has never been suspended before, and doesn’t intend to make a habit of it. He said he misses the game after nearly a week off, and is ready to play.
"It is what it is. It’s a bad hit, it looks bad. It is what it is, now it’s done with, three games, now we can look forward," Fiala said. "It’s always tough to watch your teammates play without you."