Ryan Reaves suspended for Game 1 of West Final for illegal check to head

The Golden Knights’ enforcer will miss the series opener on Sunday.

Golden Knights forward Ryan Reaves has been suspended for Game 1 of the Western Conference Final for an illegal check to the head of Vancouver Canucks forward Tyler Motte.

Reaves was ejected from Game 7 on Friday at 16:30 of the second period when his shoulder caught Motte up high. Vegas was assessed a five-minute major, but killed the penalty en route to a 3-0 win over the Canucks.

The Golden Knights play the Dallas Stars in Game 1 on Sunday.

“In my time, both coaching against Ryan and now with him, he’s the cleanest, toughest player I know,” said Vegas coach Peter DeBoer. “Very rarely does he take penalties, he very rarely takes liberties. He doesn’t take advantage of people in vulnerable positions, even though he could and yet he plays as physical a brand of hockey as anyone in the league.”

DeBoer shuffled his bottom six for Game 7 and there could be a similar look on Sunday. Tomas Nosek returned to the lineup for the first time since Game 2 of the first round against the Blackhawks; he was deemed unfit to play since that time. Nosek skated at fourth-line center with Nick Cousins being a healthy scratch.

With Reaves out, Cousins is likely to draw back into the lineup and Nosek appearing in his second consecutive game. How the lines will look remain to be seen. Forward Patrick Brown is also under consideration for game action.

“The way our fourth line sets the tone for games and brings a physical presence, it will be a loss,” said defenseman Nick Holden. “We know, as a group, we have guys that can fill in. He’ll be missed. He’s a big guy, a physical presence, but guys will fill in.”

The 10-minute discipline Reaves was assessed Friday was only his third penalty of the playoffs. Vegas’ fourth-line enforcer has accumulated 14 penalty minutes and only two penalties in games between Aug. 8-29.

Reaves has four assists in 15 games this postseason.