A day after the NHL announced it was suspending its season, the league said Friday that it will be suspending Rangers forward Brendan Lemieux.
After a hearing Friday, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety suspended Lemieux for his hit on Colorado forward Joonas Donskoi during the Rangers’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Avalanche on Wednesday night.
The length of the suspension was not detailed, but in announcing its ruling, the league said “the precise parameters of the suspension will be determined and announced once resumption of play guidelines have been established.’’ Play has been suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Lemieux was given an interference penalty with 2:52 remaining in regulation for hitting Donskoi well after he released a shot on goal that was saved by Rangers goaltender Alexandar Georgiev. An instant after Donskoi took the shot, Lemieux dropped him with a shoulder to the jaw. Donskoi lay on the ice for a moment, then left the game and did not return.
The Rangers tied the score on Pavel Buchnevich’s goal with 13 seconds left in overtime before Colorado won it with 2:10 remaining in the five-minute overtime.
The next day, hours before the NHL announced it would suspend the season, the league announced that Lemieux would have a hearing about the hit on Friday.
The suspension is just the latest downturn in what has been an up-and-down season for Lemieux. The 6-1, 213-pound wing, who reported late to training camp last fall after unsuccessfully trying to negotiate a multiyear contract, was expected to be a regular among the Rangers’ top nine forwards. But he has not produced as much as was expected of him, totaling six goals and 12 assists in 59 games.
His career-high 111 penalty minutes leads the team, and he has not scored a goal in his last 19 games.
Lemieux, who will turn 24 on Sunday, was acquired at the trade deadline last season in the Kevin Hayes deal. He missed time this season with a broken hand and has played mostly on the fourth line since his return. He did earn a promotion to the second line during Wednesday’s game.
Bettman’s season hopes
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman hopes the league will be able to resume play in some manner and be able to crown a 2019-20 champion.
“We’re doing all sorts of modeling, whether it’s completing the existing regular season as is, and then a full playoffs, or whether or not, based on time constraints, we’re going to have to make adjustments and do something different, creative,’’ Bettman told Canadian sports outlet Rogers SportsNet. “My hope and expectation is that we can finish the season in some form, award the Stanley Cup.’’
For now, players are not required to get tested for coronavirus and Bettman said he isn’t aware of anyone in the league who had tested positive. He said players have been asked to self-quarantine in the city where the team they play for is based, though they may return to family in North America.