John Erskine: 'I don't think it was a reckless play'

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John Erskine expressed remorse Monday about giving Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds a concussion on Friday night, though the Washington Capitals defenseman did not agree with NHL vice president of player safety Brendan Shanahan’s assertion that he delivered a “reckless elbow” to the head.

“I don’t think it was a reckless play or a reckless elbow,” Erskine said. “I wasn’t flying down the ice a hundred miles an hour with my elbow up in the air. That’s what [Shanahan] called it, and I gotta live with it.

The 32-year-old defenseman was suspended three games for the elbow to the head.

“Well I’m not happy with the suspension. I think he did what he had to do,” Erskine said. “It was more like a reflex thing, my elbow kind of came up at the last second. I wasn’t targeting his head or trying to injure him. It was a quick play that happened.”

Shanahan used the word “reckless” to describe the hit, both during Erskine’s hearing and on the video announcing the suspension.

“He called it reckless, so it is what it is,” Erskine said.

Erskine reached out to Simmonds over the weekend. The Flyers forward suffered a concussion as a result of the elbow and hitting his head on the ice.

“I sent him a text, kind of apologized for it and hope he gets in the lineup soon and feels better,” Erskine said.

Coach Adam Oates described Erskine on Saturday as a “clean player.” The rugged, 6-foot-4 defenseman was hoping his reputation as tough but not dirty would help his case when Shanahan was reviewing the elbow.

“I’m going on my 11th year and I haven’t been suspended,” he said. “I’ve been fined once, I think. I thought that would come into a factor more, but Shanahan did what he had to do and I gotta accept it.”

And Erskine must accept missing three games after playing well in his first five of the season.

“I was kind of on a roll there, I was getting minutes, getting lots of ice time,” said Erskine, who even scored a goal Jan. 27 vs. the Buffalo Sabres. “I don’t know, I was having fun out there. It came at a bad timing, but I’ll live with it and get back in on hopefully Saturday.”

Erskine was expecting fewer than three games for the elbow. But there is an advantage to the compressed schedule.

“The good thing about this is that we have so many games so quickly, so it’s not like I’m on the shelf for a week and a half or two weeks,” Erskine said. “I think it’ll be a quick five days or so and I’ll get right back at it.”

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