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JOHNSON ORDERED TO SIT FOR A DOZEN GAMES

The NHL is sending a message, Kings GM Dave Taylor says, and it was loud and clear for Los Angeles forward Matt Johnson.

Johnson was handed the league's longest suspension since 1994, 12 games, for slugging New York Rangers defenseman Jeff Beukeboom in the back of the head. The ruling Monday will cost Johnson, who draws a $650,000 salary, about $95,000.

"I think we certainly can't condone as a team what Matt did, and no one likes to see any players get injured," Taylor said Monday night in a conference call. "We're hoping the injury to Beukeboom isn't serious and he's back on the ice real soon.

"I think Matt talked about remorse and he certainly doesn't want to see anyone injured. He accepts the punishment and the decision and will live with it."

NHL senior vice president Colin Campbell, who issued the suspension following a hearing Monday morning in New York, said: "The league has made clear that deliberate blows to the head -- particularly those which cause injury to the head of an opponent -- will be treated severely."

Johnson got a match penalty for punching Beukeboom during a game last Thursday. Beukeboom collapsed to the ice face-first and was still wobbly when he left the ice with help from medical personnel a few minutes later.

Beukeboom had drawn a penalty for tripping moments earlier, and Johnson's punch appeared to be in retaliation.

"I think the message (from the league) is that players can't take matters into their own hands," said Taylor, who arrived back home Monday night after the hearing in New York.

Johnson already has served one game of the suspension and will miss the Kings' next 11 games. Taylor said he did not expect the suspension to be appealed either by the team or by the players' union.

The suspension is the longest since Tony Granato of the Kings was suspended 15 games for slashing Pittsburgh's Neil Wilkinson on Feb. 9, 1994.

Since the season began, Campbell has suspended 17 players a total of 60 games for a variety of offenses.

Cherry picks only Canadians

TORONTO -- Don Cherry stuck to form in selecting his all-time hockey team, listing only Canadian players.

The outspoken former NHL coach, highly critical of European players, selected Wayne Gretzky at center and also mentioned Jean Beliveau, Mario Lemieux and Phil Esposito.

Cherry's pick for right wing is Gordie Howe, ahead of Mike Bossy and Maurice "Rocket" Richard. He went with Bobby Hull at left wing ahead of Frank Mahovlich and John Bucyk, and took Terry Sawchuk in goal while also praising Jacques Plante and Johnny Bower.

And on defense?

Bobby Orr, of course.

"No need to go into Bobby's records, they would fill this page," Cherry wrote in his newspaper column. He selected Doug Harvey as the other defenseman.

Puppa may miss two weeks

TAMPA -- Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Daren Puppa could miss up to two weeks after pulling a groin muscle in Saturday's 5-2 loss to Pittsburgh. The Lightning recalled goaltender Corey Schwab, 28, who appeared in 16 games with Tampa Bay last season.

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