LAS VEGAS — Center Joe Thornton was suspended for one game by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety on Monday, leaving the Sharks without one of their biggest leaders and most productive players for Game 4 of their opening round playoff series against the Vegas Golden Knights.
Thornton was suspended for an illegal check to the head on Golden Knights forward Tomas Nosek in the second period of Sunday’s Game 3, a 6-3 Sharks loss. Thornton, who had a hearing with the league earlier Monday, will be eligible to return for Game 5 in San Jose on Thursday.
As Nosek skated back toward the Golden Knights’ end line late in the second period, fighting off a check from Brenden Dillon, Thornton came in from behind the Vegas net and clipped Nosek’s head with his left shoulder. Nosek had just released the puck.
The player safety department ruled that after Nosek passed the puck, Thornton “delivers a direct shoulder into Nosek’s head, causing him to fall to the ice.
“It is important to note that the head is clearly the main point of contact on this hit, and that the head contact is avoidable.”
The NHL also noted that while Nosek was low in his stance at the time he passed the puck, he did not materially change the position of his head or body just prior to contact. Thornton was given an illegal check to the head minor penalty for the infraction at the 16:54 mark of the second. The Sharks were trailing the Golden Knights 4-1 at the time.
The only other time Thornton has been suspended in his 21-year NHL career was in Nov. 2010, when he was given two games for a hit to the head of David Perron, then with the St. Louis Blues. In March, he and Golden Knights forward Ryan Reaves were each fined $2,500 for high-sticking.
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