Capitals defenseman John Erskine has a 2 p.m. phone hearing with the NHL office on Saturday afternoon following his elbow to the head of Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds on Friday. He could be fined and/or suspended for the infraction.
The play occurred at 18:09 of the first period. During a collision in the Washington offensive zone, Erskine stuck out his right elbow and smashed it into Simmonds’ jaw. Erskine escaped without a penalty, but Simmonds was knocked woozy and had his nose bloodied. He eventually skated off the ice under his own power, but did not return to the game.
“It looked dirty when I first saw it,” Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette said. “Tough hit.”
Few Caps players, including Joel Ward, a close friend of Simmonds, admitted to seeing the hit. Head coach Adam Oates claimed he hadn’t seen a replay yet. Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren described Simmonds dealing with a head injury and a little bit of whiplash, but no broken nose. And while he checked out okay after the game, teams always wait to see how a player responds the next day. Philadelphia returned home afterwards for a Saturday night game against Carolina.
“Two guys colliding going for the puck,” Holmgren said. “But then you see the replay. I don’t know why his elbow came up, but it looked like it did. And I don’t think John’s that kind of player, I don’t think he’s a dirty player. Those things happen.”
Erskine has never been suspended during his 11-year NHL career. He did have a notable incident on Nov. 8, 2011 at Verizon Center against the Dallas Stars when he elbowed defenseman Trevor Daley in the face. The hit drove Daley into the boards and was officially a boarding penalty, but the NHL issued no fine or suspension. Erskine may not be so lucky this time.
Meanwhile, his Caps teammate Matt Hendricks had to answer on the ensuing shift. The linesman double-pumped before dropping the puck on the ensuing faceoff and Hendricks and Flyers forward Zac Rinaldo began throwing punches before play started. That’s a no-no. Both men were handed game misconduct penalties and ejected.
“I think they got tricked in a sense because the two centermen went like there was a draw,” Oates said. “It was like a false start and he was kicking one of them out. But I think they reacted to the two centermen moving.”
Hard to complain too much given that the Flyers played the final two periods of the game with 10 forwards. But losing Hendricks had to hurt with the Caps playing back-to-back games and their fifth in eight nights.
“There should be some leeway in that because I guess the centerman got waved out and they didn’t really know that,” Washington forward Troy Brouwer said. “But yeah, back-to-back we need as many players we can, especially a guy who logs quite a few minutes on the PK. With such an energy player like [Hendricks] he’s very physically fit, composes himself really well and gives us a lot of energy. We need those guys in the back-to-back games.”
Follow me on Twitter @bmcnally14