The new year has started on a bad note for Columbus Blue Jackets forward Derek MacKenzie.
The NHL on Friday suspended him three games for his hit hit from behind against Phoenix defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson in the first period of a 2-0 win the previous night. The suspension will cost MacKenzie $15,385.
MacKenzie wasn’t penalized on the play but did spend five minutes in the penalty box after Phoenix defenceman Keith Yandle fought him after the Ekman-Larsson hit.
“He [Ekman-Larsson] actually got hit in Buffalo and we talked about if a guy gets hit like that, you’ve got to stick up for him,” Yandle told reporters after Thursday’s game. “I’m not really going to beat anybody up, but I thought I’d stick up for him. I know he’d do the same for me.”
Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett deemed Ekman-Larsson day to day with an upper-body injury. His shoulder appeared to be the first point of contact with MacKenzie.
The Swedish defenceman didn't return to the game and missed practice Friday.
Ekman-Larsson is fourth on the team and second among Phoenix defencemen with a plus-6 rating. The 22-year-old also has four goals, including a team-high three game-winners, and 22 points in 40 contests.
Sweden's Olympic team will be keeping an eye on the severity of the injury to the Karlskrona native as it has Ekman-Larsson slotted among the squad’s top-four rearguards for the Sochi Winter Games next month.
Click below to listen to NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan's explanation of the MacKenzie suspension.