The NHL has suspended St. Louis Blues defenceman Ian Cole for three games after delivering an illegal hit to the head on Detroit Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader.
Brendan Shanahan, the NHL's senior vice-president of player safety, made the announcement in a press release on Sunday.
The incident occured at 9:11 in the first period on Dec. 31, when Cole came off a line change, approached Abdelkader at the St. Louis blue-line and delivered a check to his head. Cole was given a minor penalty on the play while Abdelkader briefly left the game but returned to finish the second and third periods with no apparent injuries.
Shanahan explained his decision in a video statement.
"If Cole decides to attempt a hit while approaching at this angle, he must hit Abdelkader square to the body and avoid picking his head," Shanahan explained.
"While we agree with Cole's assertions that he did not intend to hit Abdelakder in the head and did not use his elbow, this is a quintessential example of recklessly targeting a player's head and making it the principle point of contact."
Shanahan also noted that Cole's clean record, having no history of any previous suspensions, was a factor in deciding on a three-game suspension for the Ann Arbor, MI, native.
Cole is forced to sit out games Tuesday versus Phoenix, Thursday against Edmonton, and Saturday versus Colorado. He is eligible to return Jan. 10 when the Blues travel to Montreal.
The 22-year-old, who is in his second season with the Blues, will forfeit $21,081 US in salary. He has registered one goal and four points in 13 games this season.