Washington Capitals left winger Marcus Johansson has been suspended for two games for an illegal check to the head of New York Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey, NHL Player Safety announced Friday.
The check came with 11 minutes, 21 seconds remaining in the first period of Washington's 4-1 victory Thursday. Hickey went to clear the puck from center ice, but Johansson leaned with his forearm and aimed toward Hickey's head.
Hickey told Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post that he thinks Johansson is an "honest player" and that the hit was "50 percent" his own fault.
"He's not a dirty player, but maybe it was a dirty hit," Hickey told Khurshudyan. "Like I said, I don't think he's got bad intentions."
Johansson is fifth on the Capitals with 26 points and fourth with 16 assists. He's scheduled to return to the Capitals lineup Jan. 14 against the Vancouver Canucks.
“I just tried to hit him,” Johansson said after the game, per Khurshudyan. “I went in with my shoulder, and you know, I don’t know if he had his head low or not, but I went in with my shoulder. That’s all I saw from my vantage point.”
Losing Johansson for a short period of time is only a minor hiccup for the Capitals, who have the most points in the NHL with 63 and lead the second-place Islanders by 14 points and third-place New York Rangers by 15 points in the Metropolitan Division.
Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin are capable of providing enough scoring firepower to carry Washington in Johansson's absence. The Capitals have also been spoiled by the emergence of center Evgeny Kuznetsov, who is tied for the team lead with Backstrom with 37 points.
The good thing for Johansson is that his two-game suspension will go by quickly. The Capitals have a back-to-back against the Rangers and Ottawa Senators on Saturday and Sunday before the Canucks matchup. Washington won't suffer with Johansson out of commission.