Early Friday evening the Washington Capitals’ flagging playoff push took a potentially serious step back when defenseman Mike Green was suspended by the NHL for a high hit on Tampa Bay’s Brett Connolly midway through Thursday night’s game between the Caps and Lightning.
From the NHL:
Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green has been suspended, without pay, for three games for delivering an illegal hit to the head of Tampa Bay Lightning forward Brett Connollyduring NHL Game #1001 in Washington on Thursday, March 8, the National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety announced today.
Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and based on his average annual salary, Green will forfeit $85,135.14. The money goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.
The incident occurred at 11:03 of the second period. No penalty was assessed on the play.
The suspension came as no surprise, as Green’s hit on Connolly was clearly high and intentional. According to NHL vice president of player safety Brendan Shanahan, “Green raises and drives his left arm into Connolly’s head with significant force, making it the principal point of contact and causing it to hit the glass.”
Previously this season the league has chosen not to suspend players who make similar head contact when the victim has put himself in a vulnerable position immediately prior to the hit, but Shanahan noted that Connolly was driven into his crouching position by Dmitry Orlov’s body check and that Green “then slows down, waits, loads up, and targets Connolly’s head” with his hit.
In delivering the high hit, Green ran afoul of Rule 48 – Illegal Check to the Head, specifically the part that reads “A hit resulting in contact with an opponent’s head where the head is targeted and the principal point of contact is not permitted.”
Green has been previously disciplined by the league twice, most notably a three-game suspension in January 2010 for delivering an elbow to the head of Michael Frolik. Prior disciplinary history plays a factor in possible suspensions, as does injuries suffered by the victim; Connolly needed help off the ice after the hit but returned to skate six more shifts, and was on the ice for Marcus Johansson’s goal late in the third period and Alex Ovechkin’s overtime winner.
No penalty was assessed on the play, a fact which plays no role in the supplemental disciplinary process. Earlier this season Ovechkin wasn’t assessed a penalty on a high hit on Pittsburgh’s Zbynek Michalek which resulted in a three-game suspension of his own.
Thursday night’s game was Green’s tenth since returning from a series of lower body injuries that kept him out of the lineup for 47 games this season. In those 10 games, Green has yet to record a point even though skating well over 20 minutes most nights.
With the illegal hit, which was furthermore unnecessary – Orlov’s hit had separated Connolly from the puck, and Green’s responsibility as the second man in was retrieving it – Capitals head coach Dale Hunter will now turn to either John Erskine or Roman Hamrlik for the next three games: on Saturday in Boston versus the Bruins, Sunday at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Tuesday at the New York Islanders.
Abram Fox is the Washington Capitals Page Editor for District Sports Page. He has been covering the Capitals from the press box since the 2007-08 season.