DETROIT — Winger Luke Witkowski contributes virtually no offense but the Detroit Red Wings have liked the feistiness he's brought after joining the club from Tampa Bay. That element will be missing from the Detroit lineup Friday night against the Sabres, as Witkowski has been slapped with a 10-game suspension from the NHL for returning to the ice to join Wednesday's brawl against Calgary.
Witkowski had entered the dressing room tunnel when he was prodded by the stick of Calgary's Matthew Tkachuk. He wheeled and came back on to the ice, inciting a brawl that even brought Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard into the fray.
What starts as a fisticuffs between Detroit's Luke Witkowski and Calgary's Brett Kulak turns into something more. pic.twitter.com/NMRaTYhCOu
— FOX Sports Detroit (@FOXSportsDet) November 16, 2017
The suspension was automatic under NHL Rule 70.6, which says "Any player or goalkeeper who has been ordered to the dressing room by the officials and returns to his bench or to the ice surface for any reason before the appropriate time shall be assessed a game misconduct and shall be suspended automatically without pay for the next ten (10) regular League and/or Playoff games."
Coach Jeff Blashill gave it up to Witkowski after the game and it's clear he will be missed in the Detroit lineup.
"I can tell you that I hear it from the bench — when 'Witter' is in the lineup, they’re glad he is in the lineup. I can hear their chatter," Blashill said. They know there is an element of physicality and toughness. He’s a good hockey player but he’s also tough. Our bench knows it when he is the lineup. You know someone is going to be out there sticking up for you."
Witkowski has no points in eight games this year and no goals in 62 career games with the Lightning and Red Wings.
Friday's game will be the Sabres' first visit to Little Caesars Arena, the Red Wings' new $863 million home that opened last month adjacent to Comerica Park and Ford Field.