Alex Edler managed to keep standout San Jose Sharks rookie Tomas Hertl away from the Vancouver net but he'll have to sit three games for doing so.

The National Hockey League on Friday suspended the Canucks defenceman without pay for an illegial check to the head during Thursday's game in Vancouver.

Hertl, coming off a four-goal performance against the New York Rangers on Tuesday, lost his helmet after colliding with Edler in the final minute of the second period of a 4-1 San Jose victory.

"Edler does not hit Hertl squarely," said NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan in a video explaining the suspension. "He cuts across the front of Hertl, making the head the main point of contact."

Edler, who used his shoulder to ward off Hertl, appeared to inadvertently strike his opponent in the head after Hertl sped into the play to intercept the puck. He wasn't assessed a penalty on the play.

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The Sharks' Tomas Hertl loses his helmet as he collides with Canucks defenceman Alexander Edler in the second period Thursday. Edler has been suspended three games for an illegal check to the head. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Shanahan also said that Hertl may have put himself in a vulnerable position but ultimately wasn't at fault for the incident.

"Although Hertl is leaning forward, the position of his head does not materially change immediately prior to, or simultaneous with the hit that significantly contributes to this head contact," said Shanahan. "Aside from his helmet popping up into the air, Hertl's reaction to this hit — getting spun rather than getting driven into the direction Edler was travelling — reaffirms our view that his head is the main point of contact."

Edler is no stranger to suspensions.

He sat out two games last season for charging Phoenix Coyotes goalie Mike Smith and is currently suspended two games by the International Ice Hockey Federation for his knee-on-knee hit with Carolina’s Eric Staal at the world hockey championship this past spring.

Edler will forfeit $182,926.83 US in salary, which will go to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.

Thursday’s contest was the first time in four games this season Hertl has been held without a point.

The 19-year-old Czech leads the Sharks with six goals and seven points in four games.

With files from The Canadian Press