The Winnipeg Jets will be without their top line centre for the majority of their second round playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens.
The National Hockey League suspended Jets forward Mark Scheifele for four games for charging after a hit late in Game 1 that caused Canadiens forward Jake Evans to be taken off the ice on a stretcher.
The collision occurred just as Evans scored an empty-net goal to seal a 5-3 victory for the Habs in Game 1.
The suspension comes after Scheifele had a phone hearing with the NHL’s department of player safety earlier on Thursday.
According to the league, Scheifele argued he was attempting to make a legitimate defensive play in an attempt to prevent a goal. But the department of player safety felt his intention was to deliver a hard, violent check to an opponent with the outcome of both the play and the game already having been decided.
At the time Scheifele was assessed a major penalty for charging and a game misconduct for the hit.
If the Jets are eliminated prior to Game 6, he’ll have to finish serving the suspension next season.
Jets head coach Paul Maurice defended the hit earlier in the day after an optional practice.
Read more: Hextall on Hockey: Scheifele knows better
“For me, the feet are on the ice, the arms are tucked in and it’s a body contact. That’s the way I see it.” said head coach Paul Maurice. “You need to do everything you can to stop a goal from being scored. Hitting is part of the game. It was a heavy, heavy hit. That’s for sure, but it was clean.
“In order to try and cut that play off he was skating pretty good. He wasn’t striding through the hit by any means. It was a hell of a hit. I mean it was hard. Good on Evans – he took the hit to make the play.”
Evans was not taken to hospital and has since been diagnosed with a concussion.
It’s Scheifele’s first NHL suspension.
You can listen to Game 2 Friday night on 680 CJOB with the pregame show starting at 4:30 p.m. and the puck dropping up shortly after 6:30 p.m.