The prettiest star in the dark night sky that is the Ottawa Senators has been snuffed out, at least for a little while, by the latest dirty play from Buffalo Sabres goalie Aaron Dell.
In Tuesday night's 5-0 Sens victory, Ottawa got off to a quick start, scoring three goals in a three-minute span near the end of the first period, with one of them coming on the power play from their top point-getter, Drake Batherson. But just 10 seconds after Tyler Ennis scored his second goal of the game, an obviously upset Dell gave Batherson a high elbow as the winger skated near his net.
Batherson did not return to the game, and Sens coach D.J. Smith said afterward that he'll be out for a while with an ankle injury, noting specifically that he'll miss what would have been his first career all-star game. Dell wasn't penalized on the play, but Player Safety announced on Wednesday morning that he'll have a hearing, which hints at more serious discipline coming down the pipe.
The Sens, obviously, were pretty pissed at Dell. Brady Tkachuk seemed to tell him off during the game and afterward said, "Quite frankly it's a bullshit play. It sucks." (Tkachuk also said that he carpools with Batherson and would be driving him while the ankle heals.) Ennis called the play "pretty dirty," as well, while Sens goalie Matt Murray said it was "dangerous."
Dell didn't apologize, and, when asked about a potential looming punishment, said he hadn't seen a replay of the hit.
"I was just trying to buy some time for my defenceman and step into his lane," he said in his defense. "I hope he's all right. I wasn't trying to hurt anybody."
In context, it certainly seems as though Dell was taking out his frustration on one unlucky Senator after once again giving up a bunch of goals. It has indeed been a pretty miserable year for him, as he's now 1-8-1 and only still in the NHL because the woeful Sabres have been wiped out by injuries at his position. But as Smith pointed out in his own press conference, this wasn't an isolated incident.
"It's a bad play by the goalie," the coach said. "He's done it before. We've seen all the replays."
One such play to which Smith might be referring is when, while on the Sharks in 2018, Dell randomly smashed Calgary's Sam Bennett with his stick after he had allowed a whopping eight goals.
Another one would be a high hit on Mark Stone from 2019—in the preseason, of all places—that looks eerily similar to the Batherson play.
And yet another would be from just two weeks ago, when Dell came out of his net like a man possessed and picked up an interference penalty with a crazed attack on Eeli Tolvanen.
Despite this pile-up of incidents, Dell has yet to be suspended or fined in his NHL career. That might be his only way out of a hefty punishment when it comes time for his hearing.
Update (1/27, 9:26 a.m. ET): Dell got a three-game suspension for the hit.