Rasmus Ristolainen isn’t ordinarily known as the guy to cheap shot someone. The 6’4 FIN isn’t one to shy away from the physical aspect of the game though either. We’ve seen the nasty inside of Ristolainen come out throughout his tenure with the Sabres between his rookie season until now. Big number 55 has started to show more of his physical side and use his strength to his advantage more in the last two seasons than ever. Whether it was running over Alex Ovechkin or having lengthy physical bouts with the opposition’s biggest threats like Milan Lucic, Ristolainen has had a clean slate with the NHL Player Safety Department until now.
On March 21st, the Sabres hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins in what was a pretty eventful first period. It began with Sid the Kid giving Ryan O’Reilly a stick between the legs, only for Ristolainen to inflict some pain on the opposition himself. After a scrum along the boards at Pittsburgh’s blue line, Ristolainen read the play as the puck traveled up the boards. What he didn’t see was Zemgus Girgensons use his stick and make a good defensive play to keep the puck in the zone. Ristolainen had his back turned as he was already en route to collide with the Penguins rookie standout Jake Guentzel when Girgensons stopped the puck, but that didn’t stop Ristolainen. The defender interfered with Guenztel in open ice while he was in vulnerable position giving him a concussion and leaving blood along his visor. It was an incidental hit by Ristolainen but it was reckless and the end result was dirty.
It was announced Wednesday that Ristolainen would have a hearing withthe Player Safety Department and after coming to a verdict Thursday afternoon, Ristolainen was suspended for three games. Some people believe three games is necessary and other don’t, we’ll let you decide. Looking at punishment for other similar and even worse hits, a case can be made for three games being a little much but the Sabres will just have to deal with the consequence. It will be hard to fill Ristolainen’s roll as he’s the Sabres best defenseman (even if your favorite mathematician thinks differently ), and someone has to fill his ~28 minutes a night. As excessive as three games for this hit is, I suggest Sabres fans put themselves in a Penguins fan’s shoes before going on a Twitter rant. If this was one of the Sabres young studs you’d probably be wishing for at least three games as well, especially due to the fact there was an injury on the play.
Over the course of Ristolainen’s suspension the Sabres will play Toronto, Columbus, and Florida.
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