Barry Trotz readily admits that Jordin Tootoo has operated in some gray areas in regard to the rules during his NHL career, which now consists of more than 400 games.
The Nashville Predators coach also is adamant in his belief, though, that his rugged forward had no ill intentions when he made his way toward the blue ice of the opponent’s goalie crease Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres, a game the Predators lost 3-2.
Tootoo was assessed a five-minute major for charging and a game misconduct for his collision at 15:54 of the second period with Buffalo netminder Ryan Miller.
He also was subjected to a disciplinary hearing with members of the NHL office Monday afternoon. The hearing took place over the phone because the head of discipline, former player Brendan Shanahan, was at the board of governors meetings in California.
“That was not a situation where he’s going, ‘I’ve got to run Ryan Miller,’” Trotz said. “It was a very close hockey game [and] we felt we were going to come back and win that hockey game. We felt real strongly that way.
“To me, I know the circumstance. I know Jordin’s thought process. Hopefully the league looks at it and sees it the same way we do.”
The incident took place when Tootoo attacked down the left wing, tried to move around Sabres defenseman Christian Eherhoff and get to the front of the net. He failed to clear Ehrhoff, which left him on course directly for Miller and with little time to react.
Nashville trailed 2-0 at the time but had carried the play for much of the second period.
“The last thing I wanted to do is run the guy over,” Tootoo said Monday prior to the hearing. “The game wasn’t out of hand or anything. There was no intention of me doing something stupid like that.
“I honestly did my best to jump out of his way. When you’re going that fast and you get a little nudge from your back right on your hip – that split second changes a lot of momentum. … If I wanted to bury him, my feet would be planted and I’d be in a hockey stance.”
Miller was playing for the first time after having missed eight games with a head injury, which was the result of contact with Boston’s Milan Lucic, who was not suspended. In that case, the players went after a loose puck.
Tootoo, the franchise’s all-time leader in penalty minutes, has one NHL suspension on his record. He sat for five games in 2007 because he delivered a gloved punch at Dallas’ Stephane Robidas.
“I wouldn’t say Jordin’s an angel,” Trotz said. “He’s taken some runs over the years over some guys, but in the last couple years his game has refined a little bit. He still plays hard. He still bumps into people and what have you. But I wouldn’t say that he goes out of his way to try to hurt people.
“… Trust me, if Jordin really wanted to run him over, I don’t think Miller would be getting up.”
• Forward Sergei Kostitsyn, who has not played since last Tuesday because of an upper body injury, practiced on Monday and was expected to be in the lineup against Phoenix.
Two separate injuries have sidelined last season’s leading goal scorer for a total of six games thus far in 2011-12. In 20 appearances he has three goals and eight assists.
Trotz added that defenseman Francis Bouillon (groin) was expected to take part in Tuesday’s morning skate but was not likely to be available to play before the weekend. Bouillon has missed the last four games after having missed the first seven of the season because of a concussion sustained last season.
• Stan Drulia was named assistant coach of the Milwaukee Admirals. The move completed the transition that was necessitated when the Carolina Hurricanes hired Milwaukee’s first-year head coach, Kirk Muller, to coach in the NHL.
Former assistant, Ian Herbers, was promoted to head coach immediately following Muller’s departure.
Drulia has an extensive record as a head coach in several of North America’s minor hockey leagues, most recently with the Wheeling Nailers of the East Coast Hockey League. He went 38-29-5 with the Nailers last season.
Herbers and Drulia were teammates in the AHL during the mid-1990s.
• Austin Watson, Nashville’s first-round draft pick in 2010, was one of 30 players named to USA Hockey’s preliminary roster for the World Junior Championships.
Training camp will begin Dec. 17 and the announcement of the final 22-man roster is expected Dec. 22. The 2012 World Junior Championship will take place Dec. 25 through Jan. 5 in Calgary.