Engelland hearing for hit to head surprises Bylsma

| Monday, Dec. 16, 2013, 8:03 p.m.

Deryk Engelland could have helped the Penguins on Monday night.

However, he was not available for a home game against Toronto because of a looming discipline hearing with NHL Player Safety.

The need for that hearing — scheduled for Wednesday at the league's headquarters in Manhattan — surprised coach Dan Bylsma.

“Deryk was suspended before, so there is a past history (against) him,” Bylsma said, acknowledging he otherwise sees no reason for Engelland's discipline hearing.

Engelland received a match penalty in a win at Detroit on Saturday night for his hit on the Red Wings' Justin Abdelkader, who was clipped in the head. Engelland said the contact with Abdelkader's head was unintentional.

Bylsma shared a similar opinion Monday morning.

“Deryk and Justin are going for a puck, both going stick-on-puck, and Justin's leaning into the play,” Bylsma said. “I think Deryk's intention is to go stick-on-puck, and (he is) really not looking for too much physical contact. (He is) protecting himself going into that hit.”

Engelland was one of five regular defensemen unavailable for the Penguins against Toronto on Monday night. Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik, Paul Martin and Rob Scuderi were out with injuries.

Engelland was suspended three games for his leaving his feet and making contact with the head of Chicago's Marcus Kruger on March 20, 2011.

The NHL's labor contract with its Players' Association states that an in-person hearing occurs only if Player Safety's preliminary review of an on-ice incident indicates a suspension of six or more goals may be appropriate.

The NHL's weekend suspension of Boston's Shawn Thornton is being appealed, the Players' Association announced Monday. Thornton received a 15-game ban for his assault of Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik on Dec. 7 at Boston.

Commissioner Gary Bettman will hear Thornton's appeal. If Bettman upholds a suspension of at least six games, Thornton will have seven days to appeal to a neutral discipline arbitrator.

James Oldham, president of the National Academy of Arbitrators, would hear that case.

The option for a neutral arbitrator on discipline matters was not available to players under previous labor contracts. If Thornton's case goes before Oldham, it will mark the first time for neutral arbitration in an NHL disciplinary situation.

The NHL believes the NHLPA and Thornton will contend that his reputation as an honest player — terminology Bylsma and Penguins general manager Ray Shero used to describe him Saturday afternoon — and Thornton's lack of history warrants a lesser suspension for his attack on Orpik.

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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