NEW YORK — John Scott will serve a seven-game suspension for his illegal head shot, with NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan weighing Scott’s intent, height and previously clean record before issuing the penalty.
Scott has already served four games of the suspension, including the Sabres’ 2-0 loss to the New York Rangers on Thursday. The Buffalo forward will lose $26,923 in salary, which goes to the Players’ Emergency Assist Fund. He is eligible to return Nov. 8 when the Sabres visit Anaheim.
Scott met with Shanahan in New York to discuss the enforcer’s hit to the head of Boston’s Loui Eriksson on Oct. 23.
“Eriksson carries the puck into the neutral zone while Scott backchecks through the middle of the ice,” Shanahan said in a suspension video released by the NHL’s department of player safety. “After Eriksson already has dumped the puck for a forechecking linemate, Scott cuts across Eriksson and delivers a shoulder to Eriksson’s head, making it the main point of contact and causing a serious injury. This is an illegal check to the head.
“Although Eriksson is eligible to be checked on this play, he is not eligible to be checked in this fashion. And although this is not an elbow to the head, the follow-through that occurs after contact indicates to us a significant level of force delivered on this illegal check to the head.”
Eriksson suffered a concussion on the third-period hit and has yet to return to practice.
“It’s important to note that Eriksson does not materially change the position of his body or head just prior to or simultaneous with the hit,” Shanahan said. “Therefore, on this play the onus is entirely upon Scott to ensure that Eriksson’s head is not the main point of contact on any hit he chooses to make.”
Scott’s minuscule group of backers defended him by saying his height factored into the head shot. Scott is 6-foot-8, while Eriksson is 6-2. Shanahan made a point of countering the argument.
“It’s also important to note that Scott has 217 recorded hits in his career and has never received supplemental discipline for any of them,” Shanahan said. “While that works in Scott’s favor, it also takes away any argument on his part that illegal head contact on an opposing player is inevitable simply because he is 6-foot-8.”
Scott, who was not available for comment, can appeal the suspension and request a hearing with Commissioner Gary Bettman.
Sabres right wing Patrick Kaleta served the final night of his 10-game suspension Thursday. He can return to the lineup Saturday when the Sabres host Anaheim.
Fellow forward Corey Tropp also is scheduled to return from his broken jaw, which will leave the Sabres with decisions for both the 23-man roster and the 20-man game lineup.
“It should be push everybody because we’ve got some decisions to make coming up,” coach Ron Rolston said. “We’ve got players like Corey coming back and Patty Kaleta’s suspension is up on Saturday. Everybody should feel that.”
Rolston said he doesn’t want his players getting too comfortable, and as a result Nikita Zadorov watched the game against the Rangers from the press box.
The defenseman was a healthy scratch in refurbished Madison Square Garden. The junior-eligible rookie is on a nine-game tryout, and the sixth game will have to wait until at least Saturday.
“He needs to be better,” Rolston said, “a lot of aspects, just a lot of his details right now, practice and game situations. He needs to get some perspective, you know? With all our players, especially our young guys, we don’t want guys getting comfortable.”
With the exception of Mark Pysyk, Christian Ehrhoff and Tyler Myers, every defenseman has been scratched at least once. Fellow first-round pick Rasmus Ristolainen has taken a seat three times in the Sabres’ 15 games.
“When Rasmus was out of the lineup, he came back in and played well,” Rolston said. “He was refocused on what he needed to do and wasn’t taking things for granted. I think it’ll be the same with Nikita.”