VOORHEES, N.J. - If you were left scratching your head (or maybe doing something worse) when the NHL Department of Player Safety announced Jakub Voracek's two-game suspension Sunday night, you weren't alone.
The Flyers, ultimately trying to deal with it but also comprehend it, seemed just as puzzled by the league's action.
They've witnessed Kurtis Gabriel ram a defenseless Nolan Patrick face first into the boards and watched Evgeni Malkin recklessly whip his stick near Michael Raffl's head.
And they've seen both Gabriel and Malkin receive one-game suspensions.
"Those are definitely the ones that you're kind of thinking about, especially since we're directly in those games, so you see it firsthand and it leaves you scratching your head a little bit," James van Riemsdyk said Monday after morning skate. "But ultimately it's a tough job for the player safety department to try to go through all that, it's a thankless job because you're always going to have one team that's upset with how things go, but certainly in this situation, I definitely feel we may have a pretty decent case for feeling the way we do."
Everyone knows the play by now (see story).
With the Flyers holding a comfortable four-goal lead 5:41 into the third period of Saturday night's 5-2 win over the Islanders, Voracek braced himself for a hit from Johnny Boychuk by throwing some weight back toward the New York defenseman.
Boychuk seemed surprised by Voracek's awareness and ended up down on the ice, never returning to the game. As he exited, he angrily pointed at Voracek and had words for the Flyers' winger (see story).
Without Voracek Monday night against the Senators, Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon will once again roll with seven defensemen and 11 forwards.
Gordon said he was "disappointed" with the two-game suspension.
Big picture of things, I think the hit on [Patrick] was a lot more severe, more intention than what Jake was trying to do. I think Jake was trying to protect himself, guy is sprinting down the boards, has no intention of slowing down, sees Jake in front of him and never slows down. Jake's not just going to stand there and absorb the hit.
As it was, he started above the top of the hash mark and by the time the contact was done, he ended up below the hash mark, so I don't think there was a lot of force on Jake's end of it as much as the force of Boychuk going into Jake, pushing him back the other way. Jake's a lighter man, he probably would have received the worst part of the hit.
How Boychuk falls and what the actual injuries are, I don't know. ... He obviously was alert enough to yell at Jake as he was going off the ice, so I don't know if he had a concussion or not, he very well could have. I think it was more how he landed and maybe not expecting that Jake was going to be as firm on his feet as he was.
Sean Couturier admitted he was a little surprised by the two-game suspension.
Not only are the Flyers losing their third-leading scorer while five points out of a playoff spot with 14 games remaining, but there's growing confusion over what's allowed and not allowed on the ice.
"I don't know if it's just really against us. I guess all you want is maybe a little more consistency," Couturier said. "I think everyone wants that. Sometimes we're on the good side, sometimes we're on the bad side."
As for this specific incident …
"Those plays happen all the time," Couturier said. "Me, personally, I like to use my back to protect myself and brace for the hit and create separation from the player to the puck. Maybe it was just a misjudged play off the rim there, but I feel those plays happen often.
"There are starting to be a lot of questions surrounding hits, the way you protect yourself, the way you hit. I'm not going to change the way I play, those types of plays happen sometimes. It's a part of the game.
"It sucks to see someone hurt, but it's a part of the game."
According to a report by Dave Isaac of the Courier-Post, the NHLPA has filed an appeal for Voracek's suspension. Still, a player can't play during the process of an appeal.
Voracek did not take part in Monday's morning skate, therefore he was unavailable for comment.
The Flyers must move forward for now.
"I guess all we can ask for as players is consistency with all this stuff," van Riemsdyk said. "That's all we can hope for, if that's the standard, then hopefully they withhold it for everything."
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