The question the NHL Department of Player Safety will need to answer on Tuesday is not whether Penguins defenseman Kris Letang should be suspended for his open-ice check to the head of Capitals left wing Marcus Johansson, but for how long.
The Capitals have a number in mind and it’s the same number of games defenseman Brooks Orpik is being forced to sit out for his headshot on Pens defenseman Olli Maatta – three games.
“Yeah, I’d say so,” Johansson said after the Caps’ 3-2 loss in Game 3 left them trailing the series two games to one.
“I hope the league is gonna respond,” Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin said. “We’ll see.
“If it’s fair maybe he gets three games or something. I don’t know. It’s not my call. It’s not our call. Our job is to think about next game.”
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Letang’s hit on Johansson came with 4:19 remaining in the first period. Johansson streaked across the blue line and dished the puck less than a second before Letang drove his shoulder into Johansson’s head.
“I didn’t see him coming,” Johansson said. “He came from the blind side. I just looked at (a replay). He obviously leaves his feet and hits me in the head. I mean, it’s the kind of play you want out of the league. It doesn’t look good.”
Said Letang: “I saw him coming full speed. I tried to step up in the middle. It was just a step-up to hit him, no intention (to injure). Things happen fast in the game. It was a fast play.”
Johansson was slow to get to his feet and retreated to the dressing room for concussion testing. He returned to play the final two periods and finished with 18:20 of ice time.
“I’m having some issues with my neck right now,” he said. “I got hit in the head and got a little whiplash, I think.”
Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby, who stopped 21 of 23 shots in the loss, had this to say about what may lie ahead for Letang, who leads the Penguins and ranks sixth in the NHL with an average ice time of 29:13 a game.
“Hopefully, they treat everyone the same,” Holtby said. “That’s all I can say.”
Capitals coach Barry Trotz, who earlier in the day wondered if Orpik’s suspension would be as long if the Caps were facing another opponent, said he will let the Depaertment of Player Safety handle any supplementary discipline.
“Where he hits him, he’s vulnerable,” Trotz said. “Let the league handle it. I just get myself in trouble if I say anything more. I don’t know if there’s a standard. I think they’re looking for protocols and certain situations. They set a little bit of a standard (with Orpik), so we’ll see.”
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