The NHL’s Department of Player safety has suspended Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Roman Polak two games for a hit on Columbus Blue Jackets forward Oliver Bjorkstrand in their Wednesday game.
The play occurred at the 1:00 mark of the third period while the two were chasing a loose puck in the Toronto zone. Polak was assessed a major penalty for boarding and a game misconduct. Bjorkstrand left the game after the hit and reportedly had blood coming from his mouth and nose following the play. Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella did not have an update on Bjorkstrand after the game.
The Department of Player Safety pointed out that Bjorkstrand should not have been hit on the play, which was why supplemental discipline was merited.
“It is important to note that this is not a play where a sudden movement by a player turns a legal hit into an illegal hit immediately before contact is made. Polak is tracking Bjorkstrand from behind for some time from the moment both players go behind the net until they reach the boards. While we acknowledge that Bjorkstrand turns in a manner that makes this hit more dangerous and contributes to the violence of the hit, Bjorkstrand is not eligible to be checked by Polak on this play,” said Player Safety in the above suspension video. “The onus is on Polak to ensure that he avoids this hit entirely, or at the very least minimizes the force of the impact. Instead, Polak drives Bjorkstrand forcefully into the glass causing an injury.”
After the game, a 5-2 win by the Maple Leafs, Polak tried to defend the play and how it unfolded.
“He did a little turn on me,” Polak said. “I wanted to hit him, no doubt. Was it a penalty? Yeah, maybe. I didn’t want to (hurt him), it was just a bad spot. I was already committed to it when he kind of turned. That’s what happened.”
The Blue Jackets were understandably upset about the play and weren’t happy to see Bjorkstrand, who has 11 points in 22 games, go down.
“You get frustrated,” captain Nick Foligno said. “It’s such a gray area right now in the league, but when you keep letting it go and letting it go, somebody gets hurt. Guys are in vulnerable positions when they’re hit. I don’t blame the officials. They’re trying to let things go and let us decide the games, but then something like this happens, and that’s frustrating.”
The 30-year-old Polak will give up $25,000 as part of the suspension. He has neither been fined nor suspended previously in his NHL career which has spanned 626 regular season games and 49 playoff games.
He has four goals and four assists in 67 games this season while averaging 17:47 of ice-time per-game. Polak’s 2:56 of penalty kill ice-time per-game ranks first on Toronto. A recent surge has put the Maple Leafs in third place in the Atlantic Division with 83 points.
– – – – – – –
MORE FROM YAHOO SPORTS