VANCOUVER – Vancouver Canuck forward Raffi Torres has been given a four-game NHL suspension for a hit to the head of Edmonton Oilers’ rookie Jordan Eberle.
The decision, handed down Thursday, means Torres will miss the Canucks’ final two regular-season games, plus the first two matches of the NHL playoffs.
Mike Gillis, the Canucks general manager, was frustrated by the length of the suspension. The decision came after a disciplinary hearing held over the telephone prior to Vancouver’s game against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night.
“We strongly disagree with it but we are going to move on here and get ready for the playoffs,” Gillis said.
“I thought it was a hockey play.”
The hit on Eberle occurred late in the third period of the Canucks’ 2-0 loss to the Oilers on Tuesday night in Edmonton. Torres’ elbow hit Eberle’s head as the Oilers forward was reaching for the puck.
Edmonton’s Ryan O’Marra quickly came to the defence of Eberle and a fight followed.
Torres was assessed a five-minute major penalty for elbowing and a game misconduct, plus a five-minute major for fighting.
Torres said he has seen replays of the hit and maintains he did nothing wrong.
“What I am doing is trying to finish my hit,” Torres said in an interview prior to the suspension being announced. “He puts his hand up right at the last second.
“He knows I’m coming.”
Torres, who has never been suspended before in his career, shrugged when asked if the league might make an example of him as the NHL tries to reduce hits to the head.
“I don’t think there is anything to be made of it,” he said. “It’s a good, clean hit.
“I haven’t heard anything but positive feedback from everybody that has talked to me. People that have talked to me, if they thought it was dirty they would tell me.”
In interviews after the game Torres was unapologetic for the hit. Gillis was asked if he thought Torres’ comments might have cost him some extra games.
“A lot of people made a lot of comments about that hit,” Gillis said. “A lot of them were inappropriate in my mind.
“I think they (the NHL) viewed it from an on-ice perspective.”
Torres, 29, signed a one-year, US$1-million free-agent contract with the Canucks last August. The six-foot, 215-pound left-winger has 14 goals and 15 assists and 78 penalty minutes in 80 games this season.
The nine-year veteran has also played for the New York Islanders, Edmonton Oilers, Columbus Blue Jackets and Buffalo Sabres.