Canadiens forward Tom Kostopoulos suspended three games by NHL

TORONTO – Tom Kostopoulos says he’s sorry but that still didn’t stop the NHL from suspending the Montreal Canadiens’ forward for hitting Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Mike Van Ryn from behind during a game Saturday night.

The NHL slapped Kostopoulos with a three-game suspension Monday for the hit that came during the first period of Toronto’s 6-3 home victory.

Kostopoulos will forfeit almost US$33,000 in salary and will miss games Tuesday night against Ottawa, Thursday night at Boston and Saturday night against Philadelphia.

“I sincerely regret the injuries suffered by Mike Van Ryn,” Kostopoulos said in a statement. “This is an unfortunate turn of events.”

Kostopoulos received a five-minute boarding penalty and game misconduct after he rammed Van Ryn from behind while the Leafs defenceman retrieved the puck in the corner.

Van Ryn stayed on the ice for several minutes and was removed on a stretcher suffering from a concussion, broken nose and broken bone in his hand. He’s expected to be out at least a month.

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“I was just trying to get in on the forecheck and get the puck,” added Kostopoulos, a veteran checking winger. “I didn’t anticipate him turning and couldn’t stop.

“I was trying to finish my check and obviously, it did not end up well. I never intend to injure another player. I feel bad. I hope he is going to be all right and resume playing as quickly as possible.”

NHL vice-president Colin Campbell said Kostopoulos was a repeat offender. He received an automatic one-game suspension last season for instigating a fight late in a game against the Boston Bruins.

“While it is my determination that Kostopoulos did not deliver a check to an unsuspecting opponent, his actions caused injuries,” Campbell said in a statement.

The incident sparked debate between those who felt Van Ryn should not have turned his back on the play and those who say a defenceman should have the right to protect the puck without getting slammed from behind.