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Brooks Orpik Suspended 3 Games

Bridget Samuels via Flickr.com

Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik has been suspended 3 games for a late hit on Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta in game 2 of the teams second round series. Orpik will miss games 3, 4, and 5 of the series, and is eligible to return for game 6, if necessary.

Early in the first period, Orpik hit Maatta in the head after he had already moved the puck. Maatta passed the puck to a teammate, and Orpik struck Maatta in the head with his elbow. He received a 2 minute minor penalty for the hit, and stayed in the game, but Maatta did not. Maatta has a concussion history dating back to his days in Junior hockey, and the Penguins will likely have an update on his condition during the teams morning skate on Monday.

Orpik had a hearing with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety on Sunday afternoon and the punishment was a lot more severe than the 2 minute penalty he received during the game. Despite not having a suspension history, the league stated in a release that the hit was “forceful, unacceptably high and excessively late.”

Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan did not like the hit, saying after the game, “I thought it was a late hit, I thought it was a target to his head. I think it’s the type of hit that everyone in hockey is trying to remove from the game.” Capitals head coach Barry Trotz felt differently about the hit his defenseman committed,  “He just finished on a hit, There’s a little size difference, and I think Maatta was leaning over a little bit.”

But no matter what any of the coaches or players feel about the hit, the NHL did not like it, and punished Orpik. The league has handed out two other suspensions during these playoffs, Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Pierre Edouard Bellemare and Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw. Bellemare hit Capitals defenceman Dmitry Orlov from behind. He was suspended 1 game for it, while Shaw was also given 1 game for using anti-gay slurs at an official following a penalty.