St. Louis Blues forward Maxim Lapierre has been suspended five games for a hit that hospitalized San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle, the NHL's Department of Player Safety announced Friday afternoon.
Lapierre faced the disciplinary committee three days after knocking Boyle unconscious with a hit against the boards. With Boyle losing balance, Lapierre used his arms to illegally check the Sharks defenseman face-first into the lower part of the boards.
He was carted off the Scottrade Center ice and was held overnight at a local St. Louis hospital for observation. He returned to San Jose on Wednesday, texting David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News an update on his status.
"I'm OK," Boyle wrote. "That was scary. Hopefully the symptoms will be very minor, if any, going forward."
Lapierre's suspension is the latest in an increasing effort by the NHL to reduce illegal and dangerous checks. Buffalo Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta was suspended for 10 games earlier this week for a hit on Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson.
The NHL's collective bargaining agreement allows suspended players to appeal their bans. It's unclear at this time whether Lapierre will do so or serve out his five-game ban.
Since the hit, many Sharks players have spoken out in support of their teammate.
“Things like that happen, especially when idiots are idiots,” Joe Pavelski told Kevin Kurz of CSN Bay Area. “Dan’s a world-class defenseman, there’s straight numbers (from behind) – there’s guys in this league that will target that. It doesn’t matter. They just go. It sucks.”
Lapierre, 28, is in his first season with the Blues. He signed a two-year contract with the club this summer after spending the past three seasons with the Vancouver Canucks. He is yet to record a point in six appearances thus far.
Chris Johnston of Rogers Sportsnet reported that Lapierre will lose $28,205.15 in salary while suspended.
Boyle, 37, is starting his sixth season with the Sharks and is an alternate captain on the team. He's scored two points (a goal and an assist) through the first six games of the season and has continued cementing his role as the team's top defenseman. Although Boyle is on the down slope of his career, he's a two-time second-team All-Star and will prove difficult to replace for San Jose.
Brad Stuart will likely take a good chunk of Boyle's minutes going forward. The Sharks have yet to make an official announcement on when they expect Boyle back in the lineup, though his return is unlikely to be imminent.
San Jose is off to a hot start with a 6-0-1 record. The Blues are 5-1-0, with their only loss coming in the game where Lapierre hit Boyle.
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