Mid-way through the first period of Buffalo’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins Tuesday, Ristolainen stepped up on an unsuspecting Jake Guentzel with a huge hit. Guentzel, however, never touched the puck as it was held up in the defensive zone. The hit left the Penguins forward bloody and struggling to get back to his feet.
Ristolainen received a five-minute major and game misconduct for the hit.
It’s not clear if direct, initial contact was made with Guentzel’s head, although after the game the Pens said he had a concussion. Nevertheless, Ristolainen’s hit was a blatant interference and will at least be looked at by the NHL Department of Player Safety. However so far, the department has not announced that the play is being reviewed.
During the intermission on Sportsnet, Colby Armstrong talked about the play. He pointed out that even though Ristolainen is stepping up in anticipation of Guentzel receiving the puck, the onus is on the Sabres defenceman to recognize when the puck doesn’t make it through, and not throw the check at all.
If Ristolainen is suspended, it would seem to fall in line as a two-gamer.
In fact, this isn’t the first questionable interference Guentzel has been involved in this season.
Just last month Philadelphia’s Brandon Manning was suspended two games for an interference check thrown on Guentzel in the Feb. 25 outdoor game between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. On that play, Guentzel did touch the puck for a brief moment and Manning hit him well after the puck left his stick.
The one big difference is that Manning was not penalized on the play, while Ristolainen was ejected.
What do you think? Is this hit bad enough to lead to a suspension?