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Exclusive: Kostopoulos suspended 3 games

by Adam Kimelman
The National Hockey League on Monday suspended Montreal Canadiens forward Tom Kostopoulos for 3 games for a hit from behind on Toronto defenseman Mike Van Ryn in a game Saturday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Seven minutes into the game, Van Ryn chased a puck into his end, with Kostopoulos trailing. When he caught Van Ryn, Kostopoulos cross-checked him and drove him face-first into the end boards. Van Ryn suffered a concussion, a broken nose and a broken hand on the play, and is expected to miss at least a month.

Kostopoulos was assessed a roughing minor, a boarding major and a game misconduct.

"While it is my determination that Kostopoulos did not deliver a check to an unsuspecting opponent, his actions caused injuries," said NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell.

NHL Senior Vice President, Hockey Operations Mike Murphy said the play was reminiscent of a number of other recent hits, including the hit from behind the Flyers' Randy Jones laid on the Bruins' Patrice Bergeron. Jones also received a 2-game suspension for the incident.

"We have some plays over the course of the last 3-4 seasons that we equate this play to," Murphy told "We have some protocol in the past, we align them and we say this is a similar play. You can go higher, you can go lower.

"We have criteria we use when we look at these hits. … It wasn't a hit to the head. It resulted in a check from behind, which is not legal, and then his head hit the glass. It wasn't late. He (Van Ryn) wasn't unsuspecting. He knew there was a forechecker coming. He had the puck, he expected to be played. He started to reverse direction to evade the forechecker and that's when the hit happened. There was an injury to the player, and the player didn't leave his skates, he didn't jump into him."

While he does look at previous similar hits, Murphy said each incident is weighed on its own merit.

"Colie says every one is different, every one is a little unique," said Murphy. "You have to put yourself in his (the offending player's) shoes. He looks at all aspects of these things, he analyzes them and compares them. You want him doing this on a case-by-case basis. You don't want them clumped together with a bunch of other plays. He looks at each one individually and makes his decision."

Kostopoulos will miss games Nov. 11 against Ottawa, Nov. 13 at Boston and Nov. 15 against Philadelphia. He will be eligible to return Nov. 16 at St. Louis.
"We have some plays over the course of the last 3-4 seasons that we equate this play to. We have some protocol in the past, we align them and we say this is a similar play. You can go higher, you can go lower." 
-- NHL Senior Vice President, Hockey Operations Mike Murphy

Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Kostopoulos is considered a repeat offender, but not for hitting from behind. He will lose $32,926.83 from his salary. As a repeat offender, the salary forfeit is based on games in the season (82) rather than the number of days (186). The money goes to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.

Kostopoulos has been suspended one other time in his career. He received a 1-game ban in November 2007 for going after Boston's Mark Stuart late in a fight-filled game in Montreal.

In a statement released by the Canadiens, Kostopoulos apologized for the incident:

"First and foremost, I sincerely regret the injuries suffered by Mike Van Ryn. This is an unfortunate turn of events. I was just trying to get in on the forecheck and get the puck. I didn’t anticipate him turning and couldn't stop. I was trying to finish my check and obviously it did not end up well. I never intend on injuring another player. I feel bad. I hope he is going to be all right and resume playing as quickly as possible."

Kostopoulos said after Saturday's game he had no malicious intent and planned to call Van Ryn to apologize.

"I was trying to get in there, get a hit and get the puck," Kostopoulos said. "Like I said, I didn't anticipate him turning and I couldn't stop myself. And I hope he's all right."

After the play, Carlo Colaicovo jumped on Kostopoulos, and the hit seemed to give the Leafs added jump in what became a 6-3 Toronto victory.

"We came out with an edge but when you see something like that to one of your best D, you really want to make them pay," Leafs forward Matt Stajan told the team's Web site. "It was a dirty hit and it's something that can't happen in the game. Luckily we made them pay."

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