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Kris Letang suspended for Game 4 vs. Capitals; right call?

Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang was suspended one game on Tuesday by the NHL Department of Player Safety for illegally checking Washington Capitals forward Marcus Johansson in the first period of Game 3 of their conference semifinal series. 

Hence, Letang will miss Game 4 of the their series. Which is pretty significant when you consider defenseman Olli Maatta is also likely out for Game 4 after Brooks Oprik delivered a head-shot on him in Game 2, earning a three-game suspension for the Capitals defenseman.

That suspension prompted Washington coach Barry Trotz to hint that the NHL gives the Penguins preferential treatment. Less than 24 hours later, Letang gets a one-game suspension.

Here’s the NHL suspension video:

As we said earlier today, the primary issue was with the lateness of the hit.

“Letang delivers a high forceful hit that makes significant head contact. This is interference. It’s important to note that Johansson is not eligible to be checked on this play,” according to the NHL.

Not charging – the video specifically says his skates didn’t lift until impact – and not an illegal check to the head, as there was “significant head contact, but the head is not the main point of contact.”

Letang had been fined once and suspended once before. He also avoided suspension in the first round against the New York Rangers after a series of circumstances made it look as though he hit Viktor Stalberg in the head with his stick.

Johansson returned to the game, but was held out of practice on Tuesday. One assumes this could have been more than one game were there an injury, like with Maatta.

But as it stands, one game is about right.

And what a huge game it now becomes for the Capitals.

The Penguins were 2-8-1 in the regular season without Letang. He’s skated 29:13 per game for the Penguins this postseason, and has 7 points in 8 games. 

So the Penguins will probably have both Derrick Pouliot and Justin Schultz in the lineup for Game 4, along with Trevor Daley, Brian Dumoulin, Ian Cole and Ben Lovejoy.

Matt Murray, Game 4 is in your hands. 

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Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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