Devils defenceman Anton Volchenkov suspended for 3 games for elbow to the head

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NEWARK, N.J. - New Jersey Devils defenceman Anton Volchenkov has been suspended for three games by the NHL for elbowing Carolina's Zach Boychuk in the head.

Volchenkov had a hearing with league officials by telephone on Wednesday and was notified of the suspension, which will cost him US$68,548.

"While he has not been involved in a supplemental discipline incident previously and it is fortunate that his opponent returned to play in the game, Volchenkov delivered an illegal blow to the head," said Colin Campbell, the NHL's vice-president of hockey operations.

Volchenkov was assessed a two-minute elbowing penalty for the second-period hit in the Devils' 3-2 overtime victory over the Hurricanes on Tuesday night. It led to a Carolina goal.

Volchenkov called the hit "an accident," saying Boychuk was leaning forward or else the blow would have been to his chest. He insisted he plays a clean game.

"Sometimes the situations have been so quick, so fast, and the reaction maybe is not right, but the situation is the situation, just an accident," he said. "It's an accident for both (of) us. I get suspended for three games right now, and I can't say more than this."

Devils coach Jacques Lemaire had no comment on the suspension, other than to say it wasn't good for his team, which is 10-1-2 since Jan 9.

Mark Fraser will replace Volchenkov in the lineup, Lemaire said.

"He's got to play and cut down the mistakes," Lemaire said of Fraser, who has been a healthy scratch in recent games. "He's got to make a good first pass, be aggressive. That's his game."

Lemaire said goaltender Martin Brodeur, who sprained his right knee on Sunday and did not play on Tuesday, would not make the trip to Toronto for Thursday's game against the Maple Leafs. The coach also said it was unlikely he would play on Friday at home against San Jose since he has not practised since being hurt.

The 65-year-old Lemaire is one win shy of 600 as a coach, something he did not know on Wednesday.

"It will be OK I guess," said Lemaire, who has posted an 11-8-2 mark since replacing John MacLean as coach on Dec. 23.

When told that Scotty Bowman, Al Arbour, Dick Irvin Sr., Pat Quinn, Mike Keenan were among the coaches who were in the 600-club, Lemaire was quick with the quip.

"It means that they were old when they left the game," a laughing Lemaire said. "I'm getting old, too."

Lemaire said the game has changed quite a bit since he started, noting the rules on holding and grabbing have changed, as well as the speed, size and strength of the players. Even the players' personalities are different.

"It's more business-orientated today," Lemaire said. "Before, it was pleasure. Now it's business."

One thing that hasn't changed, Lemaire said, is coaching in Montreal. He loved working with the players. The challenge of dealing with the press there is something else.

"What they are saying is you never do the right thing," Lemaire said. "Sometimes you don't even do the right thing when you win, which is tough. You definitely don't do the right thing when you lose. But when you don't do it when you win, it's tough."

Lemaire, who led the Devils to their first Stanley Cup in 1995, laughed when asked if the writers in the United States were too easy on him.

"That's why I lasted so long," he said.



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