Brad Stuart is headed back to the sideline after making his NHL season debut Tuesday night.

The San Jose Sharks defenceman was suspended three games after having a telephone hearing with the league’s department of player safety Wednesday following an elbowing incident with New York Rangers forward Rick Nash.

Stuart was penalized for elbowing at 2:32 of the first period after hitting Nash inside the Rangers blue-line. Video of the game shows Stuart did make contact with Nash’s head but it isn’t clear an elbow did the damage.

NHL vice-president of player safety Brendan Shanahan explained his reasoning for the suspension in a video, saying the league takes into account the actions of each party involved when assessing the appropriate punishment. 

"Although [Nash] has made himself vulnerable to the oncoming check [from Stuart], he is not carrying his head in a lowered position," Shanahan said, "Nor does he duck, crouch or dip in a way that significantly contributes to his head being hit."

Shanahan also went on to describe Stuart's actions, saying the defenceman could have avoided contact to the head. 

"His angle of approach and timing are such that Stuart's left shoulder is lined up squarely with Nash's chest," Shanahan said. "However, Stuart, who is two inches shorter than Nash, unnecessarily extends the left side of his body upward — specifically his left shoulder — in a way that makes Nash's head the main point of contact causing an injury." 

Nash stayed in the game and played five minutes 53 seconds of the first period but didn’t return to start the second.

“I have a headache,” he said after the game. “It got worse. It was a head shot. I’m concerned the way it feels.”

Last season, Nash suffered a concussion and missed four games after Boston forward Milan Lucic hit him.

Tuesday’s contest was the first for Stuart, who missed the entire pre-season and San Jose’s first two games with an injury.

Stuart will forfeit $55,384.62 US in salary as a result, all of which will be given to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.

The 33-year-old native of Rocky Mountain House, Alta., will sit out at Vancouver on Thursday, vs. the Ottawa Senators on Saturday and in St. Louis the following Tuesday. The former first-round draft pick (third overall by the San Jose Sharks in 1998) will be eligible to return to action against the Dallas Stars on Oct. 17. 

With files from