Capitals’ Mike Green suspended 3 games for head shot on Lightning’s Brett Connolly

As expected, Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green earned a suspension for his hit to the head of Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brett Connolly on Thursday night, as Connolly was being checked along the end boards by Green's teammate Dmitry Orlov.

It was just a question of how many games; the answer from Brendan Shanahan and the NHL Department of Player Safety: three.

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From the NHL:

NEW YORK (March 9, 2012) -- Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green has been suspended, without pay, for three games for delivering an illegal hit to the head of Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brett Connolly during NHL Game #1001 in Washington on Thursday, March 8, the National Hockey League's Department of Player Safety announced today.

Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and based on his average annual salary, Green will forfeit $85,135.14. The money goes to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund. The incident occurred at 11:03 of the second period. No penalty was assessed on the play.

So we have to opposing sets of circumstances here.

On one hand, Green's hit was deplorable, as he targeted the head of a player who had been placed in a vulnerable position for a considerable amount of time prior to the check. Please observe the following image from the NHL video, as Mike Green fires his heat vision at a picture of Connolly being checked in 1951:

Also, Green had been previously fined by the NHL and suspended three games for a head shot on Michael Frolik in Jan. 2010. And while Brendan Shanahan can't say it, Green's also a player that's been through concussion hell and, frankly, should know better.

On the other hand, Connolly wasn't injured on the play and came back for the Lightning on regular shifts for the rest of the game.

Because of that last factor, three games seems reasonable. Had Connolly been injured, and based on how the NHL has weighed injuries, this could have been five or more games given the history.

The Orlov check made this head-shot an unusual one, but it was a still a head shot that shouldn't have been delivered. Like Deryk Engelland's hit earlier this season that earned three games. And now the Capitals will be without their smooth skating D-man for three important games down the stretch.

Looks like Dale Hunter's going to have an awkward conversation with either John Erskine or Roman Hamrlik soon.

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