The NHL department of player safety was busy doling out punishment Friday.
The league's justice squad gave Dallas Stars left winger Cody Eakin a four-game suspension, issued a two-game ban to Ottawa Senators left winger Mike Hoffman, while levying the largest fine allowable by the collective bargaining agreement to San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
Neither suspension came as huge surprise considering Eakin and Hoffman were both assessed major penalties and game misconducts for their infractions.
Eakin was called for charging when he plowed through New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist midway through the first period of Thursday night’s game. Lundqvist was behind the net with the puck on his stick when Eakin sped in on the forecheck and clocked him. The collision forced Lundqvist to leave the game, but he did return before the end of the frame after undergoing concussion protocol.
NHL director of player safety Patrick Burke said, in a video explaining his rationale for the punishment, Eakin “loads up, braces for contact and delivers an intentional and forceful hit to Lundqvist, making substantial contact with the goaltender’s head.”
This is Eakin’s first suspension in his 333-game NHL career. He has one assist in 14 games this season. Curtis McKenzie is expected to return after missing two games because of upper-body soreness, according to Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News.
Hoffman was kicked out late in the third period of Wednesday’s game after cross-checking San Jose Sharks center Logan Couture in the back of the head. Hoffman’s stick foul came just seconds after Couture knocked him off the puck with what Burke called a “light push” from behind. Couture left the game and did not return.
“In our opinion, Hoffman is attempting to deliver a high, forceful cross-check to Couture,” Burke said in a video. “This is not a hockey play.” Burke agreed with Hoffman’s assertion that outcome was worsened because his stick rode up that of Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon as he went to hit Couture. However, he added that doesn’t give him a free pass.
Hoffman had never been suspended in 220 NHL games. The Sens will be without Hoffman, their third-leading scorer with 21 points, Saturday against New Jersey and Sunday against the Islanders. They’ve recalled Casey Bailey from AHL Binghamton to take his place on the roster.
Vlasic was fined $5,000 for what the DOPS called a “dangerous use of the stick” during an incident in the final minute of the second period. He and Senators captain Erik Karlsson got tangled up behind the San Jose net when Vlasic appeared to swing his stick to pull away. The Sens weren’t pleased and center Kyle Turris ended up fighting Vlasic.