St. Louis Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo is in trouble again. The big blue liner has earned a hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety for an elbow to the head of Washington Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny in last night’s preseason contest, the league announced. Bortuzzo is not a first-time offender either, having received a maximum fine early last season for repeatedly cross-checking the New York Islanders’ Brock Nelson while he laid on the ice. Player Safety recently came under fire for being too lenient with Montreal Canadiens forward Max Domi and, given Bortuzzo’s history, seem likely to strike the bruising defender with a regular season suspension.
The hit in question occurred in the third period of Tuesday night’s game. Bortuzzo tracked Kempny to the corner behind his own net and led with his elbow on a high hit. Kempny took the blow and fell backwards into the boards and was slow to get up (video). Player Safety should be able to define this as elbowing at the very least, if not boarding. Bortuzzo hit with intent and was fully in control of his body throughout the check.
The league could also take Kempny’s status into account when deciding Bortuzzo’s punishment. Although he was able to skate off the ice under his own power, The Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan reports that early indications are that he suffered a concussion. It is unknown as to the severity of the head injury of whether or not Kempny could miss regular season time, but Bortuzzo hitting with the intent to harm and actually inflicting harm make his chances of staying un-suspended less than spectacular. Player Safety did not specify whether this was a telephone or in person hearing, which would dictate whether the suspension may be more than five games, but odds are Bortuzzo receives enough games to keep him out for the remainder of the preseason and then tack on another game or two to begin the year.