Robert Bortuzzo

Bortuzzo on suspension: ‘I’m not a malicious player’

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When the St. Louis Blues visit the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday night they will be getting veteran defenseman Robert Bortuzzo back in the lineup following his four-game suspension for repeatedly cross-checking Nashville’s Viktor Arvidsson in the back a little more than a week ago.

That incident has received plenty of attention not only because Bortuzzo is a repeat offender, but also because Arvidsson was injured as a result of the play and will remain out of the Nashville lineup for several more weeks.

Bortuzzo spoke on Monday ahead of his return to the lineup and said that while the cross-check was “maybe a little excessive,” his intent is never to injure an opponent. He was also asked if multiple offenses has caused him to develop the wrong kind of reputation around the league.

“I’m going to play the game hard,” Bortuzzo said, via The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford. “I feel like I do a good job of walking the line. I’m not going to go through all my instances. I’m sure it’s easy to dissect things for other people.

“The temperature of the game is high at times. Again, I’m not a malicious player. I’m not out here trying to injure people and I stand by that. It’s a game I have to play, on that edge, and I’m proud of the way. I play hard without being malicious.”

The problem for Bortuzzo here is that it is very easy for other people dissect things because he keeps giving other people things to dissect. He has an extensive track record of cross-checking incidents, including one on New York Islanders forward Brock Nelson that was virtually identical to the one that earned him his most recent suspension.

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews was asked about the Avridsson play on Monday ahead of their game, and on top of calling it a “horse [expletive] play,” he added this, via the Daily Herald:

“Nothing against guys that play hard,” Toews said. “That’s why I love playing this team (the Blues) because they play us hard all the time. But to me (the NHL is) doing everything to get rid of head shots and get rid of head injuries, but that to me seems like an intent to injure.

“Just because it’s not contact on a guy’s head doesn’t mean it’s not just as severe. So I thought it was pretty bad.”

On top of these two incidents there was a cross-check away from the play last year that injured Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin, a cross-check against Boston’s Jordan Szwarz that resulted in a fine, and that incident with Dallas’ Esa Lindell in last year’s playoffs where Bortuzzo became frustrated with his opponent flopping.  The bottom line here is this is now three times he has been disciplined for cross-checking incidents (two fines and a suspension) on top suspensions for two different kinds of infractions.

The tape does not lie, and he is very much a repeat offender which is going to put a pretty big target on his back in the eyes of the league. If he steps over the line again the next suspension could be significant. 

Related: Blackhawks will be shorthanded for game on Monday

Adam Gretz is a writer forPro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line atphtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Lightning’s Cernak suspended 2 games for elbowing Rasmus Dahlin

NHL
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A busy week for the NHL’s Department of Player Safety continued on Tuesday when they announced a two-game suspension for Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak.

Late in the second period of Tampa Bay’s 5-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night, Cernak caught Rasmus Dahlin with an elbow to the head that left the young defender with a concussion.

There was no penalty called on the play.

Here is a look at the play, as well as the NHL’s explanation of the suspension.

The most surprising thing in that video is the note from the DoPS that the Lightning tried to argue that Dahlin’s glove is what drove Cernak’s elbow into his face. The DoPS clearly disagreed with that assessment.

This is the first time Cernak has been fined or suspended by the league. He will lose $7,500 as a result of the suspension and miss games against the St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals. He will be eligible to return to the Lightning lineup on Nov. 30 against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Cernak has appeared in 20 games this season for the Lightning, scoring one goal.

There is no word on when Dahlin, the league’s reigning rookie of the year, will be returning to the Sabres’ lineup.

Already this week the DoPS has suspended Toronto Maple Leafs forward Alexander Kerfoot two games for boarding and Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo four games for cross-checking.

Related: Sabres’ Dahlin injured

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

PHT Morning Skate: Bergeron out indefinitely; Ovechkin’s early D.C. days

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• On the Robert Bortuzzo suspension: “According to the Department of Player Safety, the act alone would typically lead to only a fine, rather than a suspension. That was the case in October 2017, when Bortuzzo was fined the maximum allowed ($3,091.40) under the Collective Bargaining Agreement for cross-checking New York Islanders forward Brock Nelson while Nelson was down on the ice — a ‘very similar play’ to the Arvidsson incident, although at the time, ‘he didn’t have the history,’ according to Player Safety. But this time, Bortuzzo was a repeat offender, having been suspended three games (two preseason games, one regular-season game) for elbowing Michal Kempny of the Washington Capitals in September 2018. That, combined with the injury to Arvidsson and a history of similar acts, raised this incident to the level of a four-game suspension rather than a fine.” [ESPN]

Alex Kerfoot on his two-game suspension: “I feel terrible about the incident … I didn’t mean to do it by any means, but it’s a bad spot on the ice and something I should not be doing.” [The Star] 

• A lower-body injury will keep the Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron out for at least the next two games. [NBC Sports Boston]

• The chemistry between Max Domi and Nick Suzuki has been fun to watch. [Eyes on the Prize]

• A fun read about the early days of Alex Ovechkin in Washington D.C. [Capitals]

• The other part of the Jacob Trouba deal, Neal Pionk, is doing real well with the Jets. [Winnipeg Free Press]

• Why Hockey Fights Cancer is meaningful to Ryan Dzingel of the Hurricanes. [News and Observer]

• How cancer forced Kings trainer Chris Kingsley to take care of himself [LA Times]

• It’s time for the Devils to reunite Jack Hughes and Nikita Gusev. [Pucks and Pitchforks]

• Keying in on defense has helped the Sharks turn things around. [NBC Sports Bay Area]

• A look at how the Viktor Arvidsson injury will affect the Predators’ lineup. [Predlines]

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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.

Maple Leafs’ Kerfoot suspended 2 games for boarding

NHL
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The NHL Department of Player Safety announced on Monday that Toronto Maple Leafs forward Alexander Kerfoot has been suspended two games for a boarding incident that happened on Saturday night against the Colorado Avalanche, Kerfoot’s former team.

Kerfoot was given a two-minute for boarding late in the second period when he hit Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson from behind and directly into the boards.

Here is video of the play as well as the NHL’s explanation for the suspension.

Kerfoot spent the first two years of his NHL career playing for the Avalanche and was traded to Toronto over the summer — along with defenseman Tyson Barriein the trade that sent Nazem Kadri to Colorado.

Saturday’s game was Kerfoot’s first game against his former team.

He will lose $37,634.40 in salary as a result of the suspension and miss the Maple Leafs’ upcoming games against the Detroit Red Wings and Buffalo Sabres. This is the first time he has been punished by the DoPS.

He will be eligible to return to the lineup on Nov. 30 when the Maple Leafs return home to host the Sabres.

In his first 22 games with the Maple Leafs this season Kerfoot has five goals and three assists.

This is the DoPS’ second suspension in as many days, following the four-game ban issued to St. Louis Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo for cross-checking.

Related: Blues’ Bortuzzo suspended four games for cross-checking

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Preds’ Viktor Arvidsson out 4-6 weeks with lower body injury

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(UPDATE: Bortuzzo has been suspended for four games.)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Nashville Predators forward Viktor Arvidsson will miss four to six weeks after hurting his lower body when cross-checked during the first period of Saturday night’s 4-2 win over St. Louis.

Bortuzzo was suspended for four games without pay on the NHL on Sunday. Considered a repeat offender under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Bortuzzo will forfeit $67,073.

Arvidsson was cross-checked at 6:08 of the first period, with the Blues defenseman given only a 2-minute penalty. The Predators forward had an assist but played only 4:15 due to the hit.

Nashville hosts St. Louis on Monday night.