Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Rusty Klesla left the ice on a stretcher after absorbing a big open-ice hit from the Los Angeles Kings’ Jordan Nolan at 9:44 of the first period of the teams’ preseason opener Sunday at Jobing.com Arena.
Coyotes assistant general manager Brad Treliving said the issue appeared to be with Klesla’s neck. Klesla was examined at the arena before being taken to a nearby hospital for evaluation. He was alert but still immobilized.
A replay of the hit showed Nolan clearly making first contact with Klesla’s head under the chin and leaving his feet on the follow-through. The hit could be grounds for suspension under Rule 48. The only mitigating factor was that Klesla was skating with his head down (a possibly vulnerable position) but the angle of his head does not appear to change before the hit is made.
“Seemed to me like our guy got hit in the head and their player left his feet but that’s not for me to diagnose” said Coyotes coach Dave Tippett noting that Klesla “got his bell rung pretty good.”
Klesla fell to the ice and his leg twitched for a moment before he lay motionless. With the team’s medical staff attending to him Klesla was strapped to a stretcher with his head and neck immobilized and taken off the ice. As he left he raised his left hand to tell the crowd he was OK and was greeted with cheers.