NHL suspends Penguins' Engelland 5 games

| Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, 4:00 p.m.

NEW YORK — The NHL's December of Discipline continued Wednesday with Penguins defenseman Deryk Engelland.

NHL Player Safety suspended Engelland five games for a head shot on Detroit's Justin Abdelkader.

The hit happened Saturday at Joe Louis Arena, but Engelland's in-person hearing with Player Safety vice president Brendan Shanahan occurred Wednesday at the league's Manhattan offices.

Player Safety director Patrick Burke cited Engelland's past discipline history — a three-game suspension in March 2011 for a leaping head shot on Chicago's Marcus Kruger — when explaining his ruling in a video on the league's website.

Mostly, the NHL had a problem with Engelland's delivery.

“Engelland tucks his shoulder and drives through Abdelkader, recklessly picking his head and making it the main point of contact,” Burke said.

Engelland, who received a match penalty, will forfeit $14,529.90 to the Players' Association emergency relief fund. He can return at Carolina on Dec. 27.

Engelland has said he did not intend to hit Abdelkader's head, and the Penguins have supported that contention.

“Guys are going to get suspended because four years ago that wasn't a suspension. Now with Rule 48, it certainly is,” general manager Ray Shero said. “It's that close to be being a really good hit versus being a split-second to catching him chin-first and then shoulder.”

Engelland was the ninth player this month to receive supplemental discipline from the league, starting with Penguins winger James Neal on Dec. 9. That includes Boston's Shawn Thornton, who is appealing a 15-game suspension for a Dec. 7 attack on Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik.

Abdelkader told reporters Wednesday in Detroit that his headaches and dizziness have subsided. He participated in a Red Wings' practice but is unsure when he will return to play.

Burke noted that Abdelkader leaned forward and left his head exposed before Engelland's hit.

“However, he does not materially change the position of his head immediately prior to or simultaneous with this hit in a way that contributes to this head contact,” Burke said. “If Engelland wants to make this check, he has to take a different angle of approach that ensures the head is not picked and made the main point of contact.”

The NHL has had to make several points regarding illegal acts by players this month.

Counting the exhibition season, Player Safety has dolled out 29 suspensions for 121 games — and Washington's Tom Wilson is scheduled for a phone hearing on Thursday for a charging foul on Philadelphia's Brayden Schenn from Tuesday night.

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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