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Colorado’s Cale Makar suspended for Game 5 vs. Seattle

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Seattle Kraken at Colorado Avalanche

Apr 20, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar (8) skates off the ice ahead of linesman James Tobias (61) after a play in the second period against the Seattle Kraken in game two of the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado Avalanche star defenseman Cale Makar was suspended one game by the NHL for his hit on Seattle’s Jared McCann early in a Game 4 loss to the Kraken.

Makar, last year’s Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP, will be a spectator for Game 5 with the series tied 2-2. The NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced the suspension after a hearing with Makar.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after the Kraken’s 3-2 overtime win that McCann would miss Game 5 and likely be out longer. He did not specify McCann’s injury.

In a video announcing the suspension, the league called it an improper “body check to a vulnerable player.”

“Makar finishes this hit well outside the allowable window to finish a check,” the league said. “In addition, it is clear that Makar knows McCann is not in possession of the puck when he decides to deliver this hit.”

The suspension is another blow for the Avalanche, who played the past two games without forward Valeri Nichushkin for personal reasons and have been beset by key injuries for much of the season.

Makar has led Colorado in ice time in the series, averaging 25 minutes, 15 seconds per game and he played nearly 27 minutes. He has one goal and two assists through the first four games.

Makar has no history of being fined or suspended since making his NHL debut in 2019.

The hit happened midway through the first period as McCann had a short-handed breakaway attempt. His shot was saved by Colorado goalie Alexandar Georgiev with the puck going over the glass into the netting.

McCann appeared unprepared for the hit from Makar, which left Seattle’s leading scorer from the regular season on the ice for several minutes and needed help to get to the bench.

Makar said he was unaware where the puck was when he made the hit. He was originally given a 5-minute major penalty but it was reduce to a 2-minute minor for interference after a review.

“It’s unfortunate. I never want to injure guys. Hopefully he’s all right,” Makar said after the game. “I didn’t feel like I tried to finish him that hard, but I feel like if I was in that scenario they would have done the exact same thing. I’m not trying to hurt anybody.”

It is the second suspension of the 2023 playoffs. Toronto’s Michael Bunting was given three games for an illegal check to the head of Tampa Bay’s Erik Cernak in the teams’ series opener. Cernak remains out for Game 5, while Bunting is eligible to return.