If the Los Angeles Kings are going to even the best-of-seven NHL Playoff series with the Vegas Golden Knights, they will be doing it without Drew Doughty. The team’s star defenseman was suspended Thursday by the NHL for a hit to the head of William Carrier in the teams 1-0 loss on Wednesday.

Drew Doughty prepares to check William Carrier that was ruled an illegal hit to the head. (Image: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

George Parros, who is the head of player safety for the NHL, announced the suspension. He posted a comment on a video.

“Doughty delivers a high, forceful hit that makes Carrier’s head the main point of contact, on a hit where such contact was avoidable,” Parros said. “This is an illegal check to the head. It is important to note that while Doughty’s first point of contact is to Carrier’s arm, the illegal check to the head rule doesn’t take into account what the first point of contact is.”

Instant Rivalry Heating Up

The two teams had already built some dislike for one another. In the February back-to-back games, Vegas forward Oscar Lindberg was given a hard check that resulted in a concussion. The team spent that game, and the other one, trying to exact some revenge for what they thought was a dirty play.

The result was they lost both games, including an embarrassing 4-1 defeat at home. But it was an important lesson for them and a preview of what they can expect in playoff hockey.

“I think when things like that happen you’ve just got to continue moving forward,” Knights center Cody Eakin said. “I think you get worked up about them or start thinking about them too much, you stray away from your game a little bit. We’re playing strong, hard on the forecheck, finishing checks when they’re there and not going out of our way to chase guys down the ice and it was effective for us, so we’re going to try to continue the same.”

Odds Jump on Suspension

Sportsbooks have taken notice of the suspension. The Kings are already without injured defensemen Derek Forbort and Jake Muzzin, so the blue line was already thin. Now without Doughty they will have a tough task on Friday to try and control the speedy Golden Knights.

He is their best player on defense and a potent scoring threat. He is third on the Kings in scoring with 60 points (10 goals, 50 assists) and skated a team-high 26 minutes, 50 seconds per game. He played 28:02 in Game 1.

The line for the game opened at +125 for the Kings to even the series, but when news of Doughty’s absence was announced, the line was quickly adjusted. The two-time Stanley Cup champions are now +135 at most Las Vegas sportsbooks.

The Golden Knights opened as a -145 to win the game. It is now either -150 or -155 at sportsbooks, except the MGM Grand, who has the expansion team at -170.

Vegas is a -130 favorite to win the series and advance to face the winner of San Jose-Anaheim. San Jose won the first game on Thursday.