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Reckless elbow on Backstrom earns Rene Bourque 5-game ban

Sean Leahy
Puck Daddy

Calgary Flames forward Rene Bourque was barely out of the NHL supplementary discipline spotlight before he found himself in hot water again.

After delivering an elbow to the head of Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night, the NHL handed down a 5-game suspension for Bourque.

Here is Brendan Shanahan's explanation:

From the NHL:

Calgary Flames forward Rene Bourque has been suspended for five games and will forfeit $203,252.05 in salary for delivering an elbow to the head of Washington Capitals forward  Nicklas Backstrom during NHL Game #563 in Washington on Tuesday, Jan. 3, the National Hockey League's Department of Player Safety announced today.

Bourque, who was suspended last month, is classified as a repeat offender under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Accordingly, he forfeits his salary based on the number of games in the season (82), rather than the number of days (185). The money goes to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.

The incident occurred at 10:06 of the third period. A minor penalty for elbowing was assessed on the play.

Bourque will miss games Jan. 5 at Boston, Jan. 7 vs. Minnesota, Jan. 10 vs. New Jersey,  Jan. 12 vs. Anaheim and Jan. 14 vs. Los Angeles. He will be eligible to return Jan. 17 at San Jose.

Backstrom is currently day-to-day and it's not been revealed whether or not he suffered a concussion on the play.

What's worrisome here is according to Shanahan, Bourque explained that the elbow was "an instinctive reflex". It's one thing to lay a shoulder hit on Backstrom, late or not, but it's another to raise your elbow towards another player's head.

Bourque was given a 2-game ban last month for a reckless hit on Brent Seabrook of the Chicago Blackhawks. His elbow on Backstrom was just as reckless and unnecessary, and the 5-game suspension is hopefully enough of a message from the Department of Player Safety for Bourque that he'll change his approach.

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