Pittsburgh Penguins right-winger Billy Tibbetts was suspended four games without pay by the NHL on Monday for punching Atlanta Thrashers forward Darcy Hordichuk in a game last Saturday.

At 14:13 of the third period, Tibbetts, who was on the ice, delivered a blow to the face of Hordichuk, who was on the Atlanta players' bench.

Tibbetts was assessed a match penalty.

"Any involvement between players on the ice and players off the ice is not acceptable," said NHL executive vice-president and director of hockey operations Colin Campbell.

It's not the first time Tibbetts ran afoul of the law.

He served 2 1/2 years in prison after a July 12, 1995, conviction for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, a BB gun.

The sentence included a parole violation for the March 30, 1994, conviction of raping a 15-year-old girl at an outdoor drinking party in Scituate, Mass., in 1992, when he was 17.

The 26-year-old was out of hockey for three years before signing with the Penguins last the spring.

He had no points and 29 penalty minutes in seven games with the Penguins this season.

Tibbetts will miss the Penguins' next four games beginning Tuesday at Atlanta and will be eligible to return Feb. 11 at Minnesota.

Tibbetts also will forfeit $8,556.15 US in salary.