Alex Ovechkin enjoyed his first three-point game of the season Sunday, but it will be some time before he’s able to even try to duplicate that performance.
On Monday, the Washington Capitals superstar was suspended three games by the NHL for his hit on Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek. He’s eligible to return Feb. 4 at the Montreal Canadiens.
“The moment Ovechkin launches himself in the air prior to the hit, he becomes responsible for any contact.,” NHL VP of player safety Brendan Shanahan said in the video announcing the suspension.
This is Ovechkin’s third NHL suspension. He was given two games for a Nov. 30, 2009, knee-on-knee hit on Tim Gleason and another two for a hit on Brian Campbell on March 14, 2010.
Asked earlier in the day if he expected to be suspended, Ovechkin said: “I don’t know. We’ll see.”
Ovechkin appeared to leave his feet to strike Michalek at the 4:09 mark of the second period Sunday. He made contact with the defenseman’s shoulder and then head but was not given a penalty on the play.
“Yeah it’s too bad. It looked like he was sort of going down and kind of in a funny spot where his head was just about the rail of the boards, you know kind of low,” veteran right wing Mike Knuble said. “He comes in heavy and if you’re in a funny position it looks pretty bad. I guess you can say that he rose up a bit that he left his feet a little, but it’s hard to say. You don’t want to see your top guy having a hearing and possibly being suspended for a big game the next day.”
Brooks Laich said the onus should be on players receiving checks to protect themselves, but even he said Michalek could not be faulted for anything he did.
Other players did not want to comment after Monday’s practice.
“The hit on Michalek it’s not my place to make a decision on it, the league is going to deal with it as they have all season long which sometimes has been more a little more crucial than you would think,” right wing Troy Brouwer said. “But they’re trying to set a standard and make sure that player safety is number one.”