Alex Ovechkin received a three game suspension for his leaping hit against Pittsburgh defenseman Zbynek Michalek in the second period of Washington’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Penguins on Sunday. Ovechkin will forefit $154,677.75 in salary during the suspension.
Ovechkin won’t be eligible to return to Washington’s lineup until Feb. 4 in Montreal. The suspension will also overlap with the NHL’s All-Star weekend, scheduled for Jan. 26-29, that Ovechkin is currently scheduled to attend.
While Ovechkin will be allowed to participate in the event by the league regardless of the suspension, he could choose not to attend. A team spokesman declined to comment when asked if Ovechkin still planned on taking part in the All-Star game.
Brendan Shanahan, the NHL’s vice president of player safety, announced the suspension and explained that Ovechkin “launched” himself on the hit and thus was in violation of the league’s charging rules. The charge also resulted in contact to Michalek’s head.
Ovechkin wasn’t penalized for the check in the game, and Michalek was not injured on the play.
“Although Michalek’s shoulder might be the initial point of contact for this hit, the act of launching causes contact to Michalek’s head,” Shanahan explained. “Often on big hits or collisions, a player’s feet will come off the ice slightly as a result of the impact. This, however, is not one of those occasions. Ovechkin drives up, launching and recklessly making contact with Michalek’s head.”
Rule 42.1 of the NHL rulebook says charging will be assessed on a “player who skates or jumps into, or charges an opponent in any manner.”
Shanahan explained further that Michalek did not make any unexpected movements immediately prior to the hit that resulted in the “violent nature of this check.” Shanahan said that he believed Ovechkin’s statement that he didn’t intend to hit Michalek’s head but that it was the left wing’s responsibility not to do so.
“The moment Ovechkin launches himself in the air prior to the hit,” Shanahan said, “he becomes responsible for any contact to the head.”
This marks the third time in Ovechkin’s career that he has been suspended. Shanahan added that Ovechkin’s prior disciplinary history, his two suspensions and two fines, played a role in the decision as did the fact that Michalek was not injured.
Ovechkin’s previous suspensions both occurred during the 2009-10 season. The first was for a knee-on-knee hit against Tim Gleason and the second was a hit from behind on Brian Campbell. According to a league spokesman, while Ovechkin is not classified as a repeat offender for the purposes of determining his salary forfeiture because he has not received supplementary discipline in the last 18 months, his history is still taken into consideration by Shanahan for the ruling.
Michalek faced a disciplinary hearing of his own on Monday for elbowing Matt Hendricks roughly five minutes after he absorbed the hit from Ovechkin. Michalek did not receive any supplementary discipline for that play.
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— Ovechkin faces disciplinary hearing for hit
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