The Department of Player Safety has suspended their second player of the day, handing down a three-game ban to Buffalo Sabres’ defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. It’s the first time the league has suspended Ristolainen in his four years in the NHL, and thus seems a bit excessive.
Ristolainen lined up Pittsburgh’s Jake Guentzel as the Penguin forward was heading out of his own zone and ready to receive a pass. As Sidney Crosby tried to send him the puck, Zemgus Girgensons picked it off inside the blueline and Ristolainen hit Guentzel anyway with his head down. The Pittsburgh forward was bloodied and suffered a concussion on the play, while Ristolainen was thrown out of the game just a few minutes in.
While it was clearly interference and therefor an illegal check, a three-game suspension seems high mostly because of the two-game ban given out to Brandon Manning earlier this year. In that play—coincidentally also against Guentzel—Manning threw a check long after the puck had been sent forward and even had “substantial head contact”.
The DoPS says that it will release a video explaining the Ristolainen outcome later today, which will likely claim that it would have been a dangerous hit whether Guentzel received the pass or not.