The NHL left a lump of coal in Matt Martin's stocking Monday, giving the Islanders left wing a head start on his holiday break with a two-game suspension for his hit on Coyotes forward Vernon Fiddler on Saturday.
The 21-year-old was slapped with the two-game ban after a hearing Monday regarding his open-ice hit on Fiddler at 6:23 of the first period in the Islanders' 4-3 shootout loss.
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Martin caught Fiddler with a shoulder to the head as the Coyote was trying to dump the puck in from the blue line. The league likely applied the new head-shot rule when reviewing the hit, determining it to be a blind-side hit and/or finding the head to be the principal point of contact.
"I wasn't expecting the [suspension],'' Martin said last night, "but the league is trying to crack down on those types of hits and I respect their decision.
"Obviously, it wasn't my intent. That's not the type of player I am. I think I'm going to continue playing the way I always have. This is the first suspension I've had at any level . . . I'm just going to have to be more careful in situations like that in the future.''
The gritty fourth-line grinder, who will forfeit $6,792.12 in salary, has two goals in 22 games for the Islanders this season. Martin, the team leader with 104 hits, will sit Wednesday against the Lightning and Thursday against the Devils.
Notes & quotes: Goaltender Rick DiPietro did not practice Monday. Coach Jack Capuano characterized it as a "maintenance" day and said he was unsure whether DiPietro will play Wednesday or Thursday. Defenseman Mark Eaton practiced for the first time since suffering a groin injury Dec. 11. His return date still is unclear.