TORONTO - The NHL came down hard on Donald Brashear on Monday, suspending the Washington Capitals enforcer a total of six games for two incidents during Game 6 of their playoff series with the New York Rangers.
Brashear was slapped with a five-game ban for a blind-side hit to the head of Rangers forward Blair Betts and one game for shoving Colton Orr during the pre-game warm-up.
"Brashear delivered a shoulder hit to an unsuspecting player," league disciplinarian Colin Campbell said in a statement after a hearing with the player. "It is also my opinion that the hit was delivered late and targeted the head of his opponent, causing significant injury."
Betts suffered a broken orbital bone and will be out indefinitely. He was hit at centre ice well after dumping the puck into the Washington zone at 9:54 of the first period of the Capitals 5-3 win on Sunday.
The injury will deprive the Rangers of one of their best players on faceoffs and penalty-killing for Game 7 of the series on Tuesday night in Washington.
"Bettsie is a huge part of our team," said Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky. "He brings so many intangibles to our team that are so often looked over, so it's going to be tough.
"But we will all have to step up and rise to the occasion. Anytime a tough competitor and a teammate goes down, you can use it as motivation."
Brashear will also sit out Game 7, plus the next five games, either in the playoffs if Washington wins, or in the 2009-2010 regular season.
Before the game, the 37-year-old went to the centre ice dot to exchange words with Orr. He gave the Rangers winger a light shove before skating away. Orr and Brashear have tangled before, including a long slugfest during a game on Feb. 11.
A Capitals spokesman said neither Brashear nor general manager George McPhee would comment on the punishment.
"He obviously has a presence and makes guys look behind them when he's on the ice," Capitals defenceman Mike Green said of Brashear. "We're all going to have to step up our game and be a little bit more physical, because we're going to be missing that key component with him out."
Brashear's suspension is the second of this series. Rangers coach John Tortorella sat out Game 6 after throwing a plastic drinking bottle at fans during New York's loss at Washington in Game 5.
Earlier in the playoffs, Calgary's Andre Roy was suspended one game for a pre-game incident with Chicago's Aaron Johnson, and Boston's Milan Lucic got one game for high-sticking Montreal's Maxim Lapierre.
There was no word from Campbell on the Ranger's allegation that Caps defenceman Shaone Morrisonn bit Dubinsky during a second-period skirmish in Game 6. The Rangers said Dubinsky needed a tetanus shot after the game, but Morrisonn denied biting him.
"I didn't do that," he said. "I was kind of shocked they'd say that."
-With files from The Associated Press