Nikita Nesterov suspended two games for hit on Curtis McKenzie

This are tough decisions for the NHL Department of Player Safety, and then there was Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Nikita Nesterov’s hit on Curtis McKenzie of the Dallas Stars, which earned Nesterov a two-game suspension on Friday.

It wasn’t a matter of “if,” but rather “how many?”

Nesterov laid out McKenzie with a hit from behind in the second period of Thursday night’s game, earning a major penalty for checking from behind and a game misconduct.

As the video shows, McKenzie was in a completely prone position in the neutral zone after accepting a pass from teammate Jason Demers. Nesterov drives into his back a good distance from the boards, and sends him flying into them.

McKenzie was injured on the play -- the words "excruciating pain" aren't tossed around lightly -- and that’s about all this needed to be elevated to a suspension-level event. He was placed on IR and was sent back to Dallas for further evaluation from team doctors.

It’s only two games because this is Nesterov’s first rodeo with the Department of Player Safety. Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and, based on his average annual salary, Nesterov will forfeit $7,983.88. The money goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

As Raw Charge notes, this suspension plus Victor Hedman's injury will test the Bolts' defensive depth.