Alex Ovechkin suspended two games for hit on Brian Campbell

By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 16, 2010; D01

CORAL SPRINGS, FLA. -- Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin was suspended by the NHL for two games, without pay, as punishment for his hit on Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell in the first period of Sunday's 4-3 overtime win.

The suspension is Ovechkin's second this season and brings renewed scrutiny to the league's two-time MVP and his on-the-edge playing style. Campbell, according to reports, could miss the remainder of the regular season with a broken collarbone, a fractured rib and a concussion.

"If you look at it, [Campbell's] skates were parallel to the [wall]," Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Once Campbell dishes [the puck] off, he knows Alex is there. Alex doesn't hit him, he pushes him. As he's going down, it looked to me like [Campbell's] left leg stumbled and he almost toe-picked the ice."

The NHL, though, disagreed. The league takes into consideration a number of factors when determining whether to levy supplementary discipline, including the offending player's history, intent and whether the opponent suffered an injury.

In Monday's press release announcing the ruling, NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell (no relation to Brian) called Ovechkin's hit "reckless."

The hit on Campbell is the fourth incident this season involving Ovechkin that has led to an investigation by the league. The others:

-- Oct. 22 -- Fined a collective bargaining agreement-maximum $2,500 for "slew-footing" Atlanta's Rich Peverley.

-- Nov. 25 -- Received a five-minute major and game misconduct for boarding Buffalo agitator Patrick Kaleta. No supplementary discipline was issued.

-- Nov. 30 -- Suspended for the first time in his career, for two games without pay, after being assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for kneeing Carolina defenseman Tim Gleason.

Sunday's hit occurred at 12:16 of the first period, a split second after Campbell reversed the puck as he went in the corner behind the Chicago net. Ovechkin shoved Campbell -- a player the Capital outweighs by 34 pounds -- sending the Blackhawks defenseman into the end boards.

Ovechkin was assessed a five-minute major penalty for boarding and a game misconduct, and the Capitals rallied from a three-goal deficit to win. But all of the talk since has revolved around Ovechkin's latest controversy, not the stirring comeback.

Because Ovechkin is now considered a repeat offender, the left wing's most recent transgression will cost him exponentially more. Sunday's incident will result in a $232,645.40 fine based on the campaign's 82 games, rather than the 193 days in the season. In all, Ovechkin has been fined nearly $335,000 in 2009-10.

While the league-leading Capitals are 6-2 without their captain and leading scorer this season and have already clinched their third consecutive Southeast Division title, the ban's larger implications could be on Ovechkin's pursuit of the point- and goal-scoring titles. Entering Tuesday's games, Ovechkin led Vancouver's Henrik Sedin by three points for the scoring lead and trailed Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby's by one goal in his pursuit of his third Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy.

The 24-year-old Russian will miss Tuesday's game against the Florida Panthers and Thursday's game against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Ovechkin, when approached by a reporter at the team hotel, politely declined to comment.

"We have no problem with the way Alex tried to finish his check," General Manager George McPhee said in a statement. "Unfortunately, an injury resulted. We are disappointed with the suspension but do not want to comment further."

"Alex pushed [Campbell]," Boudreau said. "If he doesn't fall awkwardly into the boards, a) Is it a penalty? b) Are we having this discussion? I don't think there was any malice. With the [Colorado enforcer David] Koci hit [on Mike Green on Dec. 15], there was malice. Alex is so much stronger than everyone else. So we're penalizing him for being strong."

Boudreau also said that he is frustrated by what he considers to be the league's inconsistency in determining which incidents warrant further discipline.

"I watched it frame by frame, trying to think what they would think," he said. "To me, there's no way that was anywhere near a vicious as Koci's hit on Mike. Nowhere near."

Koci received five minutes for boarding and a game misconduct but did not face further discipline. Green suffered a gash over his left eye but did not miss any playing time.

Coincidentally, in that same game, teammate Mike Knuble recalls pulling aside Ovechkin to talk about dialing back his aggressiveness in the interest of self-preservation.

"There was something in the corner with maybe five minutes left," the 37-year-old Knuble said before the suspension was announced. "Alex kind of went at a guy. [The score] was 6-1. I was kind of like, 'Slow down a bit.' Just for your own sake. You don't need to accidentally catch your knee on somebody. There are some times, when as a player, you can save yourself a little bit."

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