Three games after Nazem Kadri got back into the Maple Leafs’ lineup following a three-game disciplinary benching, he’ll be back on the sidelines after receiving a four-game suspension by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.
The suspension comes two days after Kadri caught Edmonton Oilers winger Matt Fraser in the head with a blindside check to the head. Fraser, who stayed down following the hit, had to be helped from the ice and did not return to the game. While Fraser has not been officially sidelined, he has been undergoing concussion protocol and may be forced to miss time.
Sitting for four games will mean Kadri will have played in only seven of the Maple Leafs final 11 games of the season, and will have missed seven of their last 16 outings in 2014-15.
As Department of Player Safety director Patrick Burke says in the suspension video, the arm, not the elbow, catches Fraser in the head, but even still, it's Kadri's responsibility to avoid contact with Fraser's head.
"Fraser is eligible to be hit," Burke says in the video. "Kadri could deliver a legal, full body hit to Fraser's shoulder or, with space along the boards, Kadri can lean to his right and attempt to avoid contact completely."
Referees initially gave Kadri a two-minute minor for checking to the head. The Leafs center told reporters it wasn’t intentional.
“I don’t consider myself a dirty player,” Kadri said. “I felt like my hands were down. It happens fast, but you hate to see a guy being taken off like that.”
This isn’t the first time Kadri has faced supplemental discipline. In November 2013, Kadri was suspended for three games following an elbow to the head of Minnesota Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom.
Over the last two weeks, Kadri has been under a ton of scrutiny due to the unknown nature of his actions that led to his disciplinary suspension. There has also been speculation Kadri, who has 16 goals and 36 points in 66 games, could be traded in the off-season if the Maple Leafs find a taker at the right value.
News of his suspension also comes the day following Toronto’s mathematical elimination from the playoffs. With Boston picking up a single point against Buffalo Tuesday night, the Maple Leafs will face yet another long summer.