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Sabres' Ristolainen issued three-game suspension

Posted at 4:18 PM, Mar 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-23 16:37:14-04

The Buffalo Sabres will be without defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen yet again. On Thursday the NHL Department of Player Safety handed Ristolainen a three-game suspension for his hit on Pittsburgh forward Jake Guentzel in the first period of Tuesday's game against the Penguins.

After Thursday's practice, Ristolainen said that he never intended on Guentzel getting injured and that he was anticipating a pass to the Penguins forward. Instead, the pass heading towards Guenztel was deflected by Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons.

"I tried to look for the puck and find where was the puck and it never got to him," Ristolainen said Thursday afternoon. "I didn't see that. It's like half a second, it's tough to react."

Ristolainen was handed a five-minute major penalty and game misconduct for the hit, missing almost the entire game on Tuesday. He said he initially didn't think he would be ejected but after seeing the play again he understood the decision.

"Our player broke the play and he got injured, so I  don’t know what are the rules, but it probably was the right call."

Bove's thoughts:

One game would've made sense. Two games would've been a little bit of a stretch. Three games, at least in my opinion, is crazy.

Ristolainen absolutely should be punished for hitting and hurting a player without the puck, but his explanation of the play makes a lot of sense.

Here's the best angle to show the redirected pass:

If this puck isn't deflected this is a clean hit. Instead, Ristolainen is suspended for three games because he isn't able to stop a half of a second early? He's playing at full speed and backing into an opponent, not chasing him down with an elbow to the face.

What's really crazy is that earlier in the year Red Wings forward Gustav Nyquist got a six-game suspension for slashing an opponent in the face. Last year Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith got six games for doing the same thing. When compared to those suspensions I just don't understand the reasoning from the league.

Ristolainen has a clean track record which makes this even more confusing. Remember, it's essentially a four-game suspension because he missed almost the entire Penguins game.

Usually, the league drops the ball by handing out slaps on the wrists for punishment. This time, at least if you ask me, they dropped the ball by giving out too harsh of a penalty.

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