NHL suspends Caps center Nicklas Backstrom for one game

Loose Pucks,Sports,Brian McNally

The NHL has levied a one-game suspension on Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom, the league announced on Tuesday night.

Backstrom will miss Game 4 of an Eastern Conference quarterfinal against the Boston Bruins on Thursday. He drew an automatic one-game suspension - pending review - for cross-checking Boston forward Rich Peverley just as the final horn sounded in Monday’s 4-3 loss. On-ice officials called a match penalty, determining an intent to injure on the play, and triggered the suspension and review.

In his explanation video, Brendan Shanahan, the NHL’s senior vice president of player safety, disputes Washington coach Dale Hunter’s premise that Backstrom was simply defending himself from Peverley’s raised stick. Saying Peverley was clearly in a defensive stance with Backstrom as the aggressor, Shanahan called Backstrom’s reaction “excessive and reckless.” He did take into account that Peverley suffered no injury on the play and that Backstrom has no prior history of supplemental discipline.   

That will be little consolation to the Caps, who will be without their No. 1 center for the biggest game of the season. That’s nothing new, of course. A concussion on Jan. 3 knocked Backstrom from the lineup for 40 games and Washington still scratched and clawed its way to the playoffs. But that’s still not the same as trailing Boston 2-1 in a series entering a pivotal contest. Either tie the series at Verizon Center on Thursday or be forced to win three consecutive games – two of them in Boston at TD Garden – to keep their season alive.

“It happened so fast, a scrum in the corner,” teammate Troy Brouwer said. “Nicky's had a concussion this season and there's been a couple times where they've gone after his head and grabbed him and thrown him to the ice. So I can understand why Nicky is a little bit nervous about when sticks come up in his head.”

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