The Winnipeg Jets will have to continue their fight for a Stanley Cup playoff spot without Dustin Byfuglien.
Winnipeg's Dustin Byfuglien has been suspended four games for cross-checking NY Rangers' J.T. Miller. Video: http://t.co/oazYO5XIuq— @NHLPlayerSafety
The NHL on Thursday suspended the defenceman/forward four games for his cross-check against J.T. Miller of the Rangers during New York's 3-2 win on Tuesday.
Byfuglien forfeits $111,828 US in salary that goes to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund and he will be eligible to return on April 11, the final day of the regular season, against Calgary. Winnipeg also has games remaining with Vancouver, Minnesota, St. Louis and Colorado. All but the Avalanche were in playoff position entering Thursday's action.
It's Byfuglien's first suspension, though he has been fined three times.
In the second period of Tuesday's contest, Miller was down on the ice in front of the Jets' net when Byfuglien cross-checked him in the neck/shoulder area. No penalty was called.
After the game, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault told reporters Byfuglien's move "was one of the most vicious cross-checks I've seen this year."
"Violent, deliberate. Could have broken his neck, " Vigneault said.
Before the league rendered its decision, former NHL tough guy Matthew Barnaby offered his thoughts on the Byfuglien incident.
Some of his teammates, however, weren't as harsh, including captain Andrew Ladd.
Andrew Ladd said Dustin Byfuglien wasn't trying to cross-check Miller in the neck. Said he was going for his back. #NHLJets— @PentonKirk
Defenceman Mark Stuart added the six-foot-five, 260-pound Byfuglien isn't a dirty player.
"He definitely didn't mean to do that," said Stuart of the Miller cross-check. "He's not out there to injure guys."
Winnipeg is idle Thursday and holds a two-point lead on Los Angeles for the second and final wild-card spot in the Western Conference. The Kings will use their game in hand on the Jets when they host Edmonton.
Byfuglien has 18 goals and 45 points in 68 games this season and tops the Jets in penalty minutes with 122.
Click on the video below to hear the NHL department of player safety's explanation of their decision to suspend Byfuglien. Below that, share your thoughts on what the suspension will mean for the Jets' short-term future by voting in our poll.