By Allan Muir
John Erskine has always played the game close to the edge, but on Friday night the big, physical defender stepped over the line.
As a result, Erskine will miss the Washington Capitals next three games for his blatant elbow to the head of Philadelphia forward Wayne Simmonds.
In making his ruling Saturday night, NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan noted that there was "no malicious intent" and Erskine was just reacting to being beaten at the offensive blueline, but "this was a reckless elbow to the head that caused a serious injury."
Simmonds didn't return after the hit in Washington's 3-2 victory, and was initially said to be suffering from a mild case of whiplash. He's not skating tonight in Philly's game against Carolina and there's no timetable for his return. (UPDATE: Flyers confirm Simmonds suffered a concussion on the play.)
Shanahan noted that Erskine had no previous suspension history -- a factor that always plays into his decisions -- but you have to wonder if that weighed a little too heavily into this ruling, especially with Simmonds' status still up in the air. Three games (and the loss of more than $24,000 in pay) will probably get the point across. But considering how dangerous the play was, there was room for this suspension to keep Erskine off the ice for as many as five games and make a stronger statement to the rest of the league. Quick reaction play or not, this was a pretty vicious hit. The next guy who tries this shouldn't get off so lightly.