The Department of Player Safety has handed out a stiff penalty to New York Islanders forward Ross Johnston, suspending him three games for his hit on New Jersey Devils forward A.J. Greer. As the accompanying video explains:
It is important to note that the head is the main point of contact on this hit as Johnston’s shoulder makes clear, forceful contact with the head of Greer, and the head absorbes the brunt of the force from the check. Further, the head contact on this play is avoidable. Greer’s head remains on a level and consistent plane throughout the play and he does not adjust his speed suddenly. While Greer does pivot while he collects the puck and moves his body as he shoots the puck, this movement does not happen immediately prior to, or simultaneous with the hit in a way that significantly contributes to the head being the main point of contact.
While he did not leave the game initially, Greer was under evaluation from the Devils’ medical team following the match. Today, head coach Lindy Ruff told team reporter Amanda Stein that Greer is doing okay, but that he is going to miss “serious time.” That injury is an important factor in the decision to suspend Johnston for three games, despite his clean history in the NHL. He has never been fined or suspended previously, though some will remember his 15-game suspension while still in the QMJHL.
Johnston will now miss games against the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers as he serves his suspension. The forward will also now have a history of supplementary discipline in the NHL which will be considered in any future rulings.