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Sabres captain Eichel disagrees with NHL’s 2-game suspension

By JOHN WAWROWMarch 11, 2019
Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson (6) hits Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (9) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, March 9, 2019, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson (6) hits Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (9) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, March 9, 2019, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Jack Eichel will abide by the NHL’s decision to suspend him two games for an illegal check to Colorado forward Carl Soderberg’s head.

That doesn’t mean the Buffalo Sabres captain has to agree with it.

“If you look at the hit and look at the rule book, I didn’t think it matched up,” Eichel said following practice Monday. “It’s kind of frustrating.”

Eichel was suspended Sunday following a hearing with the league’s department of player safety.

He blamed Soderberg for lowering his head while the two raced for a loose puck along the boards during Colorado’s 3-0 victory Saturday. He said Soderberg was reaching for the puck and that his head hit Eichel’s back.

The NHL ruled Eichel was to blame because Soderberg didn’t change the direction he was heading, while Eichel cut sharply in front of Soderberg to initiate contact.

“While we acknowledge Eichel’s argument that Soderberg is low and reaching for the puck, this hit does not meet any of the criteria for unavoidable head contact,” the league ruled. “Soderberg is in a low position and reaching out for the puck before Eichel changes his course to initiate this hit.”

Eichel was penalized for an illegal hit. The suspension will cost him more than $107,500 in lost salary.

Sabres coach Phil Housley backed Eichel, who leads the team with a career-best 72 points (25 goals, 47 assists) in 65 games.

“I don’t agree with the decision, but we’ll have to live with it, and that’s all I’m going to say about that,” Housley said.

Alexander Nylander is expected to replace Eichel in the lineup after the 2016 first-round draft pick was called up from the minors.

The Sabres host Dallas on Tuesday and have tumbled out of the playoff race by going 2-8-2 in their past 12 games.

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