NHL suspends Sharks’ Karlsson two games for illegal check to head

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Erik Karlsson will miss the San Jose Sharks’ final game before the Christmas break and first one when they return on Thursday after he was suspended two games for an illegal check to the head.

The play occurred on Saturday afternoon during the Sharks’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings. Karlsson’s hit on Austin Wagner saw the Kings forward’s head be the main point of contact. There was no penalty called on the play and Wagner exited the game and did not return.

Here’s why the NHL Department of Player Safety handed Karlsson two games:

As the DoPS states in all of their videos for dangerous hits, the onus is on Karlsson here to take either a different path to check Wagner or minimize contact and not pick the head. It’s a fast game and Karlsson would have definitely like to have delivered his hit through the body, but ended up getting the head, which is why he’s going to sit for two games.

“It’s one of those plays [where] I’m closing [the] gap, and he skates into me,” Karlsson said afterward. “I don’t really lean into him, I’m in his lane, and it’s a shoulder-to-shoulder hit. Unfortunately, he went down hard, and he didn’t come back, and I hope he’s OK. But at the end of the day, it’s a hockey play.”

With the two-game ban, Karlsson will will forfeit $69,892.48 in salary, which goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.