Saturday night, John Erskine was suspended for three games and fined $24,324.33 for his elbow to the head of Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds. Erskine, whose play has earned him a sweater in five consecutive games, will sit out Sunday’s game at home against the Penguins, Tuesday’s game against Toronto, and Thursday’s game in Pittsburgh.
This will be the first time the 11-year veteran defenseman has been suspended in his career. His only other questionable play in a Capitals uniform came on Nov. 8, 2011 when he elbowed Dallas Stars defenseman Trevor Daley in the face. The hit, ruled a two-minute boarding penalty, did not merit a fine or suspension later. This time Big John wasn’t so lucky.
At 18:09 of the first period, Erskine elbowed Simmonds’ in the jaw, making the enforcer crumple to the ice. Simmonds woozily made his way to the bench, had two tampons stuck up his nose, and then walked down the tunnel to the Flyers dressing room. The forward did not return to the game. Later, Flyers’ general manager Paul Holmgren said that Simmonds has a “head injury” and “probably a little bit of whiplash.”
“From the bench it looked like a clean hit, it looked like accidental contact,” Matt Hendricks told the press after an optional practice on Saturday. “It looked like they were both fighting for the puck, fighting for position and they just kind of ran into each other. Once you look at the film, it looked a little bit different, but it was an accidental play, if anything, because Erskine isn’t a dirty player.”
When explaining his ruling, Brendan Shanahan disagreed. “Erskine looks up and clearly is aware of Simmonds’ proximity before delivering the illegal hit.”