The Chicago Blackhawks are already trailing 2-0 in their best of seven series against the St. Louis Blues, and their road to a comeback hit a speed bump on Sunday as the NHL suspended defenseman Brent Seabrook three games for his hit on Blues forward David Backes.
The hit, which occurred in the third period of the Hawks' Game 2 loss Saturday, caused Seabrook to be ejected from the game, and knocked Backes out for the remainder of the contest. His status for Game 3 remains uncertain, but the ban means that Seabrook is out at least until Game 6 of the series.
Here is what the NHL Department of Player Safety had to say about the hit:
After the game, Seabrook insisted that there was no malicious intent behind the hit, but the league said that the intent wasn't the suspension-worthy aspect of the hit, rather noting that Seabrook has to be held responsible for knowing that Backes didn't have the puck when he was hit.
"While it is possible that Seabrook does not initially recognize that Backes never gains possession of the puck, the onus is still on Seabrook to ensure that he does not hit an ineligible opponent," the league office said. "Seabrook skates some distance before making this hit. So he has time to avoid this check completely."
The NHL opted not to suspend Bryan Bickell for his hit on Vladimir Sobotka in the third period, a play that saw Bickell extend his leg out to initiate a knee-on-knee hit with the Blues' forward.