Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen has been suspended three games for his hit on Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jake Guentzel, the NHL Department of Player Safety announced on Thursday.
Ristolainen received both a five-minute interference major and a game misconduct for the hit, which occurred at 8:46 of the first period in Buffalo's game against Pittsburgh on Tuesday. A pass intended for Guentzel in the neutral zone had been broken up by Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons when Ristolainen delivered a hip check on the Penguins forward in open ice.
Ristolainen, anticipating the pass would find its way to Guentzel, had already committed himself to the hit by the time the play was broken up and said he did not have time to change course. Guentzel left the game after being knocked down to the ice and was diagnosed with a concussion.
Ristolainen had not yet had his telephone hearing when he spoke to the media following practice on Thursday afternoon, but expressed sympathy for Guentzel's injury.
"At the moment, I didn't expect to get thrown out of the game," he said. "But later on, obviously he didn't have the puck, he didn't get it, our player broke the play and he got injured … It probably was the right call then. I'm not aware about the rules."
The Sabres practiced with five defensemen on Thursday after reassigning Brady Austin and Casey Nelson to Rochester on Wednesday evening. Dan Bylsma said one of their three remaining injured defensemen - Cody Franson, Justin Falk, and Taylor Fedun - may return in time to play on Saturday.