Washington, United States (4E Sports) – The NHL has suspended Washington Capitals defenseman John Erskine for three games for elbowing Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds in the head Friday during the first period of their encounter.
Brendan Shanahan, the NHL’s vice president of player safety, called Erskine’s hit as a “reckless elbow to the head” but acknowledged that he did not intend to injure Simmonds, noting that the defenseman is not a repeat offender.
While he’s known as a tough defender, this marked the first time that Erskine was suspended in his 10-year NHL career.
“While we acknowledge there was no malicious intent and that Erskine was reacting to getting beat, this nevertheless is a reckless elbow to the head that caused a serious injury,” Shanahan said.
In explaining his decision, Shanahan said “as the two men approach the puck, Erskine looks up and clearly is aware of Simmonds’s proximity before delivering the illegal hit”.
According to Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren, Simmonds suffered a concussion and is out indefinitely.
The 32-year-old Erskine will forfeit $24,324.33 in pay during the suspension and will return on Feb. 9 when the Capitals host the Florida Panthers.
In Erskine’s absence, the Capitals are expected to insert veteran blue liner Tom Poti back in the lineup when they take on the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Earlier, the Capitals defended Erskine’s record as a tough but not dirty player.
“He does have that reputation around the league,” Capitals forward Matt Hendricks said. “Guys know that John Erskine’s one of the toughest guys in the league by far but he does it within the rules of the game and he’s clean.”
“I think it’s really tough, because you’ve got two guys going for the puck simultaneously and two big boys and it looked like simultaneous contact to me. And he’s a clean player, so we’ll see,” said Capitals coach Adam Oates.