PITTSBURGH -- Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik called his three-game suspension "fair" while labeling his interference hit on Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta as "bad" and "definitely late" during a post-practice press conference Monday.
Orpik was suspended by the NHL's Department of Player Safety on Sunday for his hit on Maatta at 4:13 of the first period in Game 2 on Saturday. Maatta did not return and will miss Game 3 at Consol Energy Center on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS). The Penguins are calling it an upper-body injury.
The best-of-7 series is tied 1-1. Orpik is not eligible to return until Game 6, if necessary.
"Yeah, I think [the suspension] was fair. It was intended to be a hard hit, definitely not at his head but I don't think there is anything that you can argue that it was definitely late," Oprik said. "I think that was pretty black and white. I said that during my hearing [Sunday]. So, I'm just disappointed. It's a split-second decision you make and I just gotta live with it."
Orpik said he didn't have much of an argument to offer in his hearing with the Department of Player Safety because of the tardiness of the hit. He said he was willing to accept whatever supplemental discipline they gave him.
"It was a bad decision," Orpik said. "It was late. Obviously there was no intention to hit him in the head, but that was the result and that's why I'm not playing."
Orpik also said the situation is tougher on him because Maatta is a friend and former teammate. They played together in Pittsburgh during the 2013-14 season, the last of Orpik's 10 full seasons with the Penguins before he signed a five-year contract with the Capitals on July 1, 2014.
In addition, Orpik questioned critics who have suggested he intentionally hit Maatta in the head, particularly because he missed three games during Washington's Eastern Conference First Round series against the Philadelphia Flyers because of an upper-body injury believed to be related to his head.
"I was in a similar spot two weeks ago, so it's tough hearing people try to say I was intentionally trying to hit him in the head," Orpik said. "I've dealt with enough head and neck issues to know."
Capitals coach Barry Trotz questioned the length of the suspension, comparing Orpik's hit to the one put on Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov by Philadelphia Flyers forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare in the first round that drew a one-game ban. He also was not happy with Orpik being a labeled a predator due to the hit.
"That's not him," Trotz said. "The people here in Pittsburgh trying to paint him that way … C'mon, that's a joke. He's an honest, hard-nosed player, and I think a lot of players around the League will tell you that. Does he hit hard? Absolutely. Absolutely he hits hard. But that's not a predator. A predator is a guy that's trying to hurt people. He's trying to play through people."
The Penguins players were predictably more focused on losing Maatta at least for Game 3 and potentially longer than they were on Orpik's suspension. Justin Schultz or Derrick Pouliot will replace Maatta in the lineup. Coach Mike Sullivan said it will be a game-time decision.
"You never want to see a guy have to be out, especially under those circumstances, but we must go on, keep going and try to get one tonight," Penguins defenseman Trevor Daley said. "I think [the hit] definitely deserved something. Now it's the debate how many, but it wasn't a pretty one when you watched it after."
Daley also noted the hit Orpik put on Maatta is the type of hit executives at the League have been telling the players they do not want in the game.
"I'm sure that will probably be on the video that they show all the players at the start of the year," Daley said. "We as players don't want stuff like that to happen. We ask the League to protect us on plays like that and they show videos of hits that you're not supposed to do, and I think that one was one of them."