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Suspended John Erskine Denies Intent To Injure Wayne Simmonds
By ZAC BOYER | firstname.lastname@example.org
ARLINGTON – John Erskine said he wasn’t trying to injure Wayne Simmonds, nor was he specifically targeting his head, when he elbowed the Philadelphia winger in the left side of his face during the Washington Capitals’ 3-2 victory on Friday.
The defenseman was pursuing a loose puck in the Philadelphia zone when his right arm flew up and caught Simmonds in the head. Simmonds went down immediately after the play, which occurred in the first period, and did not return; he has since been diagnosed with a concussion and did not play Saturday against Carolina.
Erskine was suspended for three games because of the hit – a suspension Erskine began serving Sunday when the Capitals lost 6-3 to Pittsburgh.
“I don’t think it was a reckless play or a reckless elbow,” Erskine said Monday, speaking about the suspension for the first time. “I wasn’t flying down the ice at 100 mph with my elbow up in the air, but that’s what he called it and I’ve got to live with it.”
Brendan Shanahan, the league’s vice president of player safety, said in a video released by the NHL on Saturday that Erskine acted “recklessly” on the play. That was the word Shanahan used in a 20-minute phone call with Erskine earlier that day, though Erskine insisted that wasn’t the intent.
“It was more of a reflex – my elbow kind of came up at the last second,” Erskine said. “I wasn’t targeting his head or trying to injure him. It was a quick play that happened and it is what it is.”
Erskine was surprised by the length of the suspension, given that in his 10 previous seasons in the NHL, he believed he had only been fined once. After the play, he sent Simmonds a text message to apologize for the hit and wish him well; he asked reporters Monday about Simmonds’ situation and whether he was able to play against Carolina.
After being a healthy scratch for the first three games, Erskine made his season debut Jan. 25 at New Jersey. He scored his first goal since the end of the 2010-11 season against Buffalo on Jan. 27 and had an assist in the next game at Ottawa on Jan. 29.
“The good thing about it is that we have so many games so quickly, so it’s not like I’m on a shelf for a week and a half or two weeks,” Erskine said. “It’s going to be a quick five days or so and I’ll get right back at it.”
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