PITTSBURGH -- The Penguins and Capitals will learn later today what kind of supplementary discipline the NHL Department of Player Safety will give Penguins defenseman Kris Letang for his open-ice hit on Caps left wing Marcus Johansson in Game 3 Monday night at Consol Energy Center.
Letang has a hearing scheduled on Tuesday and there seems to be a consensus around the NHL that he’ll face a suspension of one or two games.
According to TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie, Letang’s hit was delivered .63 seconds after Johansson passed the puck. The NHL considers a late hit as body contact made at least .60 seconds after a player releases the puck.
By comparison, Brooks Orpik’s late hit on Penguins defenseman Olli Maata in Game 2 was delivered more than a second after Maatta possessed the puck. Orpik was given a three-game suspension for the hit. Maatta suffered an upper body injury on the play and may not return for the series against the Caps.
Several Capitals, including captain Alex Ovechkin, said they believe Letang should get the same three-game suspension as Orpik, but many around the league believe Letang is more likely to get one or two games because of the nature of his hit on Johansson and the fact Johansson returned to finish the game.
An NHL source said the Department of Player Safety takes into account a player’s medical records when deciding on the length of suspensions.
Letang is averaging 29:13 of ice time in the playoffs, by far the highest on the Penguins and sixth in the NHL. He ranks second on the Penguins in assists (6), fifth in points (7), third in shots (22) and third in hits (22) during the playoffs.
The Penguins were 2-8-1 without Letang during the regular season.
"He’s a guy who’s very tough, if not impossible, to replace,” Penguins defenseman Ian Cole said after Monday night’s game.
If Letang is suspended, defenseman Justin Schultz is expected to replace him in the lineup, giving the Pens two defensemen (Derrick Pouliot is the other) with just one game of playoff experience under their belts.
The Penguins may also be without rookie forward Bryan Rust, who left Game 3 with a lower body injury and did not return.
The Penguins lead the series 2-1, with Game 4 scheduled for Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.