Capitals defenseman John Erskine will learn today if he faces a suspension on the elbow that knocked Flyers right wing Wayne Simmonds out of Friday night’s game at Verizon Center.
Erskine is scheduled for a 4:30 p.m. phone conference with NHL director of player safety Brendan Shanahan. Erskine has a reputation as a hard-nosed player but he has never been suspended in his 11-year career and the Caps are hoping Shanahan recognizes that in his judgment.
“Guys know that John Erskine’s one of the toughest guys in the league by far, but he does it within the rules of the game and he’s clean,” said Capitals teammate Matt Hendricks, who took on Philadelphia’s Zac Rinaldo immediately after Erskine’s hit. “I don’t know if he’s ever been suspended or anything, there definitely was no intent.”
Erskine was not made available to the media after Saturday’s practice.
The hit occurred with 1:51 remaining in the first period when Erskine was pinching inside the offensive blue line. He raised his right elbow into the face of Simmonds, who left the game with what Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren called a head injury.
“It looked dirty when I first saw it,” Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. “Tough hit.”
Not surprisingly, the Caps disagree.
“I think it’s really tough because you’ve got two guys going for the puck simultaneously and two big boys and it looked like simultaneous contact to me,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said. “And he’s a clean player, so we’ll see.”
Last year Rene Bourque was suspended five games for elbowing Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom in the head on an open-ice hit. Backstrom missed the next 40 games with a concussion.
“That was a lot different play from a lot different player,” Hendricks said. “I think with John they were both battling for good position, battling for the puck.”
If Erskine is suspended look for Tom Poti to take his place in the lineup when the Capitals face the Penguins on Sunday at 12:30 p.m.