TAMPA – Tampa Bay Lightning forward Adam Erne was dealt a three-game preseason suspension on Thursday following an incident against St. Louis on Wednesday.
Erne, the team’s second round pick in the 2013 draft, delivered a shoulder check to the head of St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Sobotka that knocked the St. Louis player out of the game. Sobotka showed no effects from the hit and is expected to be back in the lineup on Saturday, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch.
The incident occurred at 6:54 of the first period as Sobotka was leaning forward after fumbling the puck before Erne cut across Sobotka’s path and tried to deliver a shoulder check, but instead made direct contact with Sobotka’s head.
Erne was assessed a minor penalty for illegal check to the head. The play was reviewed by the NHL Player Safety Department on Thursday afternoon before the suspension was handed down Thursday evening.
“As (Sobotka) backhands the puck in the direction of Erne, the Tampa player cuts across the ice and delivers a shoulder check that makes Sobotka’s head the main point of contact,’’ NHL Director of Player Safety Brendan Shanahan said in a video announcing the suspension. “Despite the fact that Sobotka lowered his head and turned in a way that makes him vulnerable, Erne must do a better job of hitting more squarely through the body and not picking his opponents head.’’
Erne went on to score two goals and picked up the shootout winner as Tampa Bay rallied to win the preseason opener 4-3 at Amway Center in Orlando in Erne’s first ever NHL game. He said after the game he did not intend to hit Sobotka in the head.
“I apologize, it was not intentional,’’ Erne said. “I was just trying to hit him. I kept my shoulder down and just happened to get him on the side of the head. It was my fault, but I did not intend to.’’
The suspension started with Thursday’s game against Nashville and will conclude with Saturday’s home game against Florida. The 18-year-old is eligible to return next week, although a majority of the 59 players are expected to be released from training camp before the team heads to Estero for six days starting on Monday.
Erne is expected to return to Quebec where he will play top line minutes for the Remparts in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.