Suspension incoming? NHL calls Leafs' Bunting in for hearing on hit
Things might be going from bad to worse for Michael Bunting and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Ejected from last night’s Game 1 of Toronto’s series against the Tampa Bay Lightning — and given a five-minute major for a hit to the head — Bunting is now facing a possible suspension for the play.
Michael Bunting was given a 5 minute major and ejected from the game for this hit. pic.twitter.com/fwxgRCpjXN
— B/R Open Ice (@BR_OpenIce) April 19, 2023
“Toronto’s Michael Bunting will have a hearing on Wednesday for an Illegal Check to the Head/Interference against Tampa Bay’s Erik Cernak,” the NHL Player Safety Twitter account shared early on Wednesday, meaning there’s a high probability the team will be without him for at least one more game.
Toronto’s Michael Bunting will have a hearing on Wednesday for an Illegal Check to the Head / Interference against Tampa Bay’s Erik Cernak.
— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) April 19, 2023
Toronto was down 4-2 at the time of the penalty and gave up two more power-play goals, with William Nylander serving Bunting’s major to put the game out of reach.
“In terms of the call, I don’t have a whole lot of things on that. [Bunting], to me, is trying to set himself up to win a race for the puck. It got away on him. The guy wasn’t expecting it. I am sure Bunts is expecting a battle in that situation, and he didn’t get one,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe told the media after the loss. “[Bunting] had some jump early in the game, too.”
Bunting himself did not speak to the media. He has yet to be suspended in his NHL career.
Bunting’s absence would cause a likely line shuffle for Toronto, who have typically used him on the team’s top unit over the past two seasons alongside Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. Matthews and Marner ended up with two and three assists respectively on the night, though that’s little consolation given the game’s result.
Game 2 of the series is set for Thursday night, where the Leafs once again host the Lightning for a 7:30 ET puck drop.
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