The NHL’s Department of Player Safety has suspended Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen three games for a big hit on Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jake Guentzel.
The play that led to the suspension happened at the 8:46 mark of the first period of the Sabres’ Tuesday home game against Pittsbrugh. The Penguins were trying to break out of their zone and the puck was sent up the ice towards Guentzel. It was then intercepted by Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons before it reached Guentzel, who was lined up by Ristolainen for a big hit. Ristolainen followed through with the check and knocked Guentzel to the ice.
After the hit, Guentzel struggled to get to his feet. His face was also bloodied by the play. Ristolainen was given a misconduct for interference.
Following the game, the Penguins announced that Guentzel had suffered a concussion. Coming into Tuesday’s game, Guentzel’s line with Conor Sheary and Sidney Crosby had been red hot with 26 total points and 10 goals in the previous six games. Guentzel currently has 25 points in 35 games this season.
The Department of Player Safety has yet to release an official suspension video.
“I think Jake was a little blindsided,” Sheary said according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “That’s tough to see a guy go down like that.”
At Sabres practice Thursday, the 22-year-old Ristolainen was asked to explain the play and why it unfolded the way it did.
“No elbow because I turned my back and kind of hip-checked. I don’t know. Maybe he wasn’t ready for it. Like I said, I don’t want to hurt anyone. It’s too bad he got injured,” he said. “I didn’t take any strides. I tried to give a little bit of time, (for him) to be aware and when I was getting my eyes toward him I tried to look the puck, I tried to find the puck. It never got to him. I didn’t see that. So it’s like a half a second there. Tough to react.”
Ristolainen, who leads Sabres defensemen with 44 points in 74 games this season, will forfeit $90,000 because of the suspension. In his previous 267 NHL games, he had not received any supplemental discipline.
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