BUFFALO — Rangers forward Ryan Strome was on the ice Tuesday when Jacob Trouba body-checked Chicago forward Jujhar Khaira, knocking him on his back. Khaira lay motionless before being taken off the ice on a stretcher and to the hospital.
As several Chicago players rushed to confront Trouba and several Rangers went to defend him, Strome went to Khaira and waved frantically for the Chicago training staff to get on the ice and administer to him. Then, while the training staff helped Khaira, Strome waved to the emergency personnel behind the Zamboni entrance to bring the stretcher onto the ice.
Khaira waved to the crowd as he was taken off, and Chicago coach Derek King reported after the game that he was alert and talking and should make a full recovery. Khaira was released from the hospital the next day, and Trouba said he exchanged text messages with him.
The team cited the NHL’s concussion protocol when it placed Khaira on injured reserve.
It was a scary sight for everyone in the building, including Strome, who said he is friends with Khaira.
The hit, which was unpenalized and looked clean on video replay, has sparked some discussion about whether the risks of serious injury to players should make the NHL consider somehow taking the type of heavy hits that Trouba delivered to Khaira on Tuesday and to Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon on Wednesday out of the game.
Strome — who described the 10 minutes after the Khaira hit as "eerie’’ — doesn’t think so.
"You can’t take hitting out of the game completely,’’ he said after the Rangers’ morning skate before Friday night’s game against the Buffalo Sabres. "It’s part of the game and always has been. I think it always will be. It’s a fine line, because I compare leagues, I look at what the NFL has done, and sometimes there’s [penalty] flags, and you’re like, ‘That’s not even really a bad hit.’
"I think there’s a line where you definitely need to protect players’ heads, no question,’’ he continued. "I think both those hits [to Khaira and MacKinnon], his shoulder’s down, there’s no elbow, there’s no dirty intent.
"I think we’re in a good place with the rule right now. I think that it’s pretty clear to people that when there’s a bad hit, everyone knows it’s a bad hit . . . But I think a good, hard body check in open ice is a part of the game.’’
Trouba’s hit on MacKinnon looked nearly identical to the one on Khaira. In both cases, the player who was hit had his head down and didn’t see Trouba coming. In both cases, the 6-3, 209-pound Trouba’s shoulder hit the player in the chest. And in both cases, the hit was deemed legal by the on-ice officials and no penalty was called.
But in both games, Trouba was challenged to a fight after the hit. Riley Stillman went after him in Chicago and Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog jumped him at the Garden.
After Wednesday’s game, Trouba said that while he doesn’t believe a player should have to fight every time he delivers a clean hit, he was OK with fighting in both situations if Chicago and Colorado felt the need to stand up for a teammate.
"If I don’t feel the need to answer for it, I won’t,’’ he said. "I think every player has the decision whether they want to fight or not. No one’s forcing you to do anything out there.’’
Strome agreed that a fight shouldn’t happen after every clean hit, but he said sometimes a fight is appropriate.
"When a guy’s down on the ice like that . . . They wanted to have a response, and I think everyone’s OK with that,’’ Strome said. "I mean, if [Artemi] Panarin got hit like that, too, I’m sure there’d be a response [from the Rangers].’’