BUFFALO, N.Y. – Sabres defenceman Tyler Myers had no intention of changing his hard-hitting style before taking part in a disciplinary hearing for his illegal check to New Jersey forward Dainius Zubrus’ head.
Now, Myers will have a week to reconsider after being suspended three games without pay by the NHL on Monday.
Following a hearing by phone with Myers, the league’s department of player safety ruled the fifth-year player unnecessarily extended and launched himself into making the hit along the boards during the third period of Buffalo’s 2-1 home win Saturday. It happened along the boards inside the Sabres’ zone, with Myers’ right shoulder catching Zubrus in the jaw.
Myers was assessed a minor penalty. Zubrus was briefly shaken up but continued playing.
The suspension cost Myers $84,615 in salary, and will begin with Buffalo’s home game against Carolina on Tuesday night. He’s eligible to return for a home game against Philadelphia on Jan. 14.
Myers suggested his height—at 6-foot-8, he’s the NHL’s second-tallest player—played a factor in how he hit Zubrus.
“That’s just one of the disadvantages of being as tall as I am. It just comes with the territory,” Myers said after practice but before the hearing was held. “I don’t want to change anything just because of that. If things come out of it because of my height then I’ll deal with it.”
The NHL did not agree, noting that Myers could have legally completed the hit by merely maintaining his position.
Myers’ suspension further depletes Buffalo’s injury-riddled roster.
The Sabres (12-26-4) are already down six regulars, including veteran defenceman Henrik Tallinder, who has missed three games with an upper-body injury.
Forward Ville Leino, who has missed two games with a lower-body injury, practiced for the second time on Monday, but isn’t expected to be ready to return.
The Sabres also have a roster decision to make with rookie centre Mikhail Grigorenko returning from helping Russia finish third in the world junior hockey championships in Sweden last weekend.
The Sabres’ only options are keeping the 2012 first-round draft pick in Buffalo or returning him to his Canadian Junior team in Quebec City.
Interim coach Ted Nolan said he’s leaning toward demoting Grigorenko to further develop his game.
Nolan said consistency remains an issue, even though Grigorenko led Russia with eight points (five goals, three assists) in seven games.
“I think that’s a problem with some young players, that consistent factor,” Nolan said. “It’s up to our organization to correct that. And you don’t correct it just by giving things to players like that. You make them earn it.”
Grigorenko has had difficulty finding his niche in Buffalo since making his NHL debut last season.
He has three goals and five assists in 43 career NHL games, including two goals and an assist in 18 games this season.
The Sabres have already been blocked by the NHL from sending Grigorenko to the American Hockey League because, at 19, the player still has junior eligibility in Canada.