New York Rangers forward Brendan Lemieux has finally been suspended.
Lemieux will sit for two games for a late, high hit on Colorado Avalanche forward Joonas Donskoi. The hit came at 17:06 of the third period of what would end up being the Rangers’ final regular season game of the season.
Player Safety reviewed the hit on March 13, advising that a suspension would be forthcoming once the league determined resumption of play guidelines. Now that they have been – 130 days later – and those plans include the Rangers as part of the Stanley Cup Playoff Qualifiers, the league handed down their ruling.
Lemieux was given a minor penalty for interference by referees Brad Meier and Justin St. Pierre. Donskoi left the ice and did not return to the game.
From The Department of Player Safety:
“Donskoi enters the Rangers zone on the rush as Lemieux backchecks through center. Donskoi fights off a Rangers defender and regains control of the puck before releasing a quick shot on goal. Well after the puck is gone, Lemieux leans hard into Donskoi’s path, making substantial contact with Donskoi’s head and causing an injury. This is interference.”
Player Safety noted that the his is more than just a ‘mere collision’ or incidental contact
“Lemieux visibly shifts his weight to move himself into Donskoi’s path, then braces for contact in a way that ensures that Donskoi absorbs the brunt of the impact.
“It is also important to note that Lemieux initiates this check well after Donskoi releases the shot and contact is made well outside of the window where a check may be legally finished. Donskoi has no reason to expect to be hit this long after the puck is gone, making him particularly vulnerable to contact.”
“What causes this hit to rise to the level of supplemental discipline is the lateness of the hit, the substantial head contact, and the force of the impact.”
This isn’t Lemieux’s first run-in with the long arm of the law. He was suspended for two games in 2018 for an illegal check to the head of Vincent Trocheck, and issued a $2,000 fine from Player Safety earlier this season for elbowing. While ‘repeat offender’ status under the CBA applies to only incidents within the past 18 months, Player Safety considers a player’s complete rap sheet when rendering punishment.
Lemieux’s suspension will be served during Games 1 and 2 of the Rangers’ playoff qualification series against the Carolina Hurricanes. He is eligible to play in the Rangers’ exhibition game against the New York Islanders on Wednesday, July 29.
As players don’t collect a salary during the postseason, Lemieux forfeits no salary as a result of the ban.