Flyers forward Zac Rinaldo has been suspended 4 games for his hit on Buffalo Sabres defenseman Chad Ruhwedel.

The Philadelphia bruiser had a busy night on Sunday night. He made a rare offensive contribution by posting his second goal of the season early in the game. He also piled up three minor penalties through the first two periods.  With the Flyers leading 4-0 early in the third, Rinaldo made an unnecessarily dirty hit on Ruhwedel.  This was not his brightest play of the game.

Rinaldo was given a match penalty for intent to injure, which includes a mandatory suspension until the league reviews the play.  The referees for the game were Brad Meier (#34) and Rob Martell (#26).

“I had a lot of speed going at him,” Rinaldo told reporters after the game. “I had my shoulder down. As I hit him, he shot the puck and my shoulder hit his head, clearly.”

“The proof is in the pudding right there,” Rinaldo said to Philly.com. “I shouldn’t have done it. There was no need for it. We were up 4-0 and there was no need for that hit, but it is what it is.”

“It’s part of the game, man,” Rinaldo said. “It’s tough. He’s a righthand shot. I slapped the puck toward him. I didn’t want to let him get that shot off. I had a lot of speed going at him . . . As he went down, his head went down. It’s tough. Everything happens so quick out there, you can’t even describe it. It’s tough.”

Sabres had coach Ted Nolan spoke out about the hit, saying, ““Those are the type of hits that we have to get rid of,” he said. “Those are not only dangerous hits but you’re also putting a fellow player in jeopardy of his career… You’re dealing with the brain.”

“Teams need energy players like that,” said Buffalo blueliner Mike Weber, “but there’s a certain line you can’t cross, and it seems like he’s crossing it two or three times a year.”

Ruhwedel’s Injury

The Sabres’ 23-year-old rookie defenseman has been diagnosed with a concussion.

While disciplinary actions should be based on intent more than outcome, Ruhwedel’s injury likely was a factor in the length of Rinaldo’s suspension.

Repeat Offender?

Under the terms of the CBA, Rinaldo is not technically a repeat offender. That only applies to suspensions that have taken place in the last 18 months. Of course, that designation only impacts how his salary is affected in the suspension. (His fine amount was calculated as a portion of calendar days in the season instead of games, resulting in a lower fine.)

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety will certainly take his history into consideration. He’s kept it clean for the past two years – if, that is, you can consider 153 PIM this season ‘keeping it clean.’

Rinaldo’s last suspension came in February 2012, when he missed two games for charging Detroit’s Jonathan Ericsson. Just a week prior, he was fined $5,000 for two separate incidents in the Flyers’ game against the New Jersey Devils – a late hit on Jacob Josefson and a slew-foot on Zach Parise. Under the CBA, the NHL’s maximum fine is $2,500 per incident.

Rinaldo also dodged a suspension in the preseason, when NHL’s Brendan Shanahan ruled that Rinaldo’s hit on Capitals forward Mikhail Grabovski was not worthy of supplemental discipline. Shanahan ruled that Grabovski had put himself in a vulnerable position which factored in to the contact to the head.

 Rinaldo will miss the remainder of the regular season. He’s eligible to return to the Flyers’ lineup in time for the first round of the playoffs.