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Rangers' John Moore suspended five games for hit to head

The Minnesota Wild's Erik Haula, bottom, holds his

The Minnesota Wild's Erik Haula, bottom, holds his head after being hit by the New York Rangers' John Moore (17) during the second period of a game Monday, Oct. 27, 2014, in New York. Moore was given a match penalty for the hit. Photo Credit: AP / Frank Franklin II

Rangers defenseman John Moore was suspended for five games without pay Wednesday for an illegal hit to the head of Minnesota Wild forward Erik Haula on Monday.

The NHL's Department of Player Safety, noting that Moore is considered a repeat offender after a similar infraction during the Eastern Conference finals, made the ruling after an afternoon hearing.

Moore drew a match penalty, which generates an automatic review, and was ejected for his blow that injured Haula at 7:12 of the second period of the Rangers' 5-4 win at Madison Square Garden.

After Haula shoots, the league said, "Moore drives into him forcefully with the left shoulder. While initial contact is made with Haula's shoulder, the main point of contact is Haula's head."

In a video explanation of the ruling, the NHL said Moore's hit was not late, nor did he hit Haula with his elbow. However, his timing and angle of approach must assure that the hit is square to the body and the head is not the main point of contact, the league said. Moore, who cannot appeal because the ban is fewer than six games, also will forfeit $51,859.75 in salary.

Moore was suspended for two games for a hit that struck the head of Montreal's Dale Weise in Game 5 of last season's conference finals.

The suspension could leave the Rangers without two of their top six defensemen until Nov. 11, when Moore would be eligible to return for a home game against the Penguins.

Dan Boyle, the former San Jose Shark who was signed to a two-year, $9-million contract, broke his hand in the season opener in St. Louis and has not begun skating.

In nine games this season, Moore has averaged 14:19 on ice and has 15 shots and one assist. He was drafted by the Blue Jackets in the first round in 2009 and in April 2013 was traded to the Rangers with Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett and a sixth-round pick in the 2014 draft for Marian Gaborik, Blake Parlett and Steven Delisle.

It is likely the Rangers' third defense pair against the Winnipeg Jets at home on Saturday will be two low-cost free agents signed over the summer: Matt Hunwick, who has played well in spurts, and Mike Kostka, who played poorly against the Islanders in his only start.

Asked if there might be a callup for Saturday, coach Alain Vigneault said: "We're comfortable with the six [defensemen] we have right now."

But he said he would discuss options with the front office for next week's games.

Notes & quotes: Center Derek Stepan (broken fibula), second on the team in scoring with 57 points last season, is expected to return to practice "in the next four to seven days," Vigneault said. Stepan is eligible to come off injured reserve on Monday. "It's going to take a couple practices to see how he feels. He's been skating real hard the past three or four days and working in the gym."

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