Marcus Johansson has never been suspended in his career and the most penalty minutes he has racked up in a season with the Washington Capitals is 10. You won’t find many who would accuse Johansson of being a dirty player. But after a hit to the head of New York Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey, Johansson could be staring down the first suspension of his career.
In the first frame of Thursday’s game against the Islanders, the puck ended up on the stick of Hickey in the neutral zone and dumped the puck into the Washington zone. As soon as Hickey had released the puck, Johansson was right there and dropped the Islanders blueliner with a high hit.
Hickey remained down on the ice for a moment before heading to the Islanders’ bench. He left the bench with a member of the training staff and walked toward the dressing room.
Johansson was handed a minor penalty for an illegal check to the head on the play, and the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced Johansson will have a hearing regarding the hit Friday.
There are a few things that aren’t in Johansson’s favor on the hit. When he makes the hit on Hickey, the Islanders blueliner doesn’t change the position of his head, he doesn’t lean into the hit and there’s not a sudden change in body position that alters where Johansson will make contact. If the league does decide suspend Johansson, though, the length of the suspension may be lessened by the fact Hickey was able to return to the contest and played the rest of the game.
If he’s suspended, Johansson could very well miss the final game of the Capitals’ road trip when they take on the Rangers Saturday. Johansson is on a one-year, $3.75 million and becomes a restricted free agent at season’s end. In 39 games this season, he has 10 goals and 26 points.
UPDATE: The NHL has announced that Johansson has been suspended two games for an illegal check to the head of Hickey.
“Johansson extends upward, delivering a blow directly to the head of Hickey,” Patrick Burke, the NHL’s director of the Department of Player Safety, says in the suspension video. “This extension makes the head the main point of contact on a hit where head contact is avoidable.”
Because of the suspension, Johansson will lose $40,322.58 in salary, all of which will go to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.