Will John Erskine face suspension for elbowing Wayne Simmonds?

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Washington Capitals defenseman John Erskine has a disciplinary hearing at 2 p.m. Saturday with NHL VP of player safety Brendan Shanahan to discuss his elbow to the head of Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds, a league spokesman said.

Erskine could be looking at a suspension based on Simmonds suffering a head injury, some history and the fact that Simmonds was defenseless on the play. His hearing is over the phone, not in person.

At 18:14 of the first period, Erskine lifted his right elbow up, striking Simmonds in the head. No penalty was called on the play.

“When I saw it live I didn’t think [it was bad]: Two guys colliding going for the puck,” Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said. “But then you see the replay. I don’t know why his elbow came up, but it looked like it did. And I don’t think John’s that kind of player, I don’t think he’s a dirty player.”

Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette said: “It looked dirty when I first saw it. Tough hit.”

Simmonds was down on the ice for about a minute and was attended to by a Flyers trainer. He did not return.

“Obviously he’s got a head injury and probably a little bit of a whiplash going on right now,” Holmgren said. “He seemed OK after the game; we’re just going to have to wait and see how he is tomorrow.”

Caps coach Adam Oates claimed he did not see the elbow. The Caps declined to make Erskine available to reporters Friday night when requested. Based on prior history with such situations, the defenseman likely will not be made available to speak until after the hearing.

Washington right wing Joel Ward is close friends with Simmonds; he did not see the play.

“I don’t know what happened,” Ward said. “I just saw him with blood on his nose, or from his mouth, I think. I don’t know what happened. Hopefully it’s not something too serious. I really don’t know what happened.”

The Caps know all too well about elbows to the head. Nicklas Backstrom missed 40 games with a concussion last season after then-Calgary Flames forward Rene Bourque viciously hit him with an elbow Jan. 3, 2012.

Bourque received a five-game suspension. He was traded during the suspension to the Montreal Canadiens.

Erskine was not suspended or fined for a questionable hit on Dallas Stars defenseman Trevor Daley in November 2011, but he has a history that exists. Simmonds was a defenseless player in the situation, which could also play against Erskine.

He would not technically count as a repeat offender.

On the faceoff following the elbow, Flyers forward Zac Rinaldo and Matt Hendricks fought before the puck was dropped. The linesman dropping it appeared to goad them into fighting before the whistle by pump-faking and looking over at them when they dropped the gloves.

“[Officials] said they fought before the puck dropped, but when you watch the replay, I think they got tricked in a sense because the two centermen went like there was a draw,” Oates said. “It was like a false start and he was kicking one of them out. But I think they reacted to the two centermen moving.”

Rinaldo and Hendricks were thrown out of the game with game misconducts for conducting a staged fight.

Check out video of the elbow, courtesy of CSN Washington:

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