Penguins defenseman Kris Letang will not play in his team’s Game 4 Second Round showdown tonight with the Washington Capitals due to a one-game suspension for a hit on Marcus Johansson.
Letang hit Johansson in the first period of Game 3 as the Capitals forward crossed the blue line. The NHL’s Department of Player Safety handed down a one-game suspension because of a combination of “the lateness of the hit and significant head contact.”
“I respect (the decision),” Letang said following Wednesday’s morning skate. “The game happens so fast. There are a lot of things that are reviewable. I respect their decision, I’ll take that one game, keep working and come back for Game 5.”
Johansson left the game following the hit, but returned to the lineup and finished the game.
Following the game Letang told reporters that he was only trying to finish his check and did not intend, nor target, Johansson’s head. He reiterated that with the media on Wednesday.
“I tried to step up on a guy. There was no malicious intention there,” Letang said. “I stride in front of him. The result is the result.”
The Pens’ blue line will be without its biggest leader and minutes eater with Letang out of the lineup. But Pittsburgh has dealt with these issues all season, including when Letang missed 10 games at various points during the season with varying injuries.
“It’s going to be tough,” Letang said. “We’ve battled through injuries all year long. We missed (Evgeni Malkin) for a long stretch. Guys were banged up all year long. Guys step up. There are guys that will rise to the occasion.”
The Department of Player Safety also noted that there was no injury on the play, that Letang did not charge and his skates only left the ice due to the hit and though there is significant head contact, the head is not the main point of contact.