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Why Kris Letang has NHL suspension hearing for Game 3 hit

The NHL Department of Player Safety announced on Tuesday that Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang will have a hearing for his hit on Marcus Johansson of the Washington Capitals.

Which means that the Penguins playing Game 4 without arguably their most important player (at this time) is a very real possibility.

Here’s how I understand the NHL sees the hit:

It’s late. Not as late as Brooks Oprik’s hit on Olli Maatta, but without question one that was initiated after the puck is gone.

The first standard is always “what rule did he break?”

Letang isn’t going to be flagged for charging – his skates come off the ice on contact, and it’s not a “leaping” hit as many screengrabs might indicate. He isn’t going to be flagged for an illegal check to the head (more on that in a moment). He’s going to be flagged for interference, given how late the hit was.

Now, on that head contact: It’s significant. But the head may not have been the “main” point of contact, which is now the NHL standard – it’s no longer the principal point of contact that matters.

However, Johansson was no longer eligible to be hit in this situation, in any manner. So that head contact goes from being borderline permissible as part of a full body hit had Johansson had the puck, to being unacceptable since the hit was so late.

So, again: It’s when Letang delivered the hit that’s the real kicker here. If there’s one consistent thing about Player Safety, it’s punishing hits that simply shouldn’t have been attempted.

It’s hard to imagine Letang won’t be suspended now that there’s a hearing. It’s also hard to imagine it will be more than a game on the sidelines for him, being that Johansson played the rest of the game.

Letang is averaging 29:13 per game. The Penguins are already down Maatta. They were 2-8-1 without Letang in the regular season.

This suspension, should it come down, is a series-shifting one. 

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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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