The NHL Department of Player Safety announced on Saturday that Washington Capitals forward Nicolas Aube-Kubel has been suspended three games for his illegal check to the head of Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Cal Foote.
In Friday’s 5-1 win over the Lightning, Aube-Kubel hit Foote in the head with his shoulder as the defender was dumping the puck into the offensive zone. After a lengthy review, NAK received a match penalty for an illegal check to the head, leading to a game misconduct and a five-minute power play for the Bolts.
Why did Aube-Kubel get three games? The DoPS offered an explanation in a video attached to the press release announcing the decision.
“Foote collects the pass in the neutral zone as Aube-Kubel comes back to defend the rush. Foote dumps the puck into the offensive zone. After he does, Aube-Kubel finishes a high, hard check that makes the head the main point of contact, on a hit where such head contact was avoidable. This is an illegal check to the head. It is important to note that both elements of the illegal check to the head rule are satisfied on this play
First, the head is the main point of contact, as Aube-Kubel’s shoulder makes direct contact with Foote’s head and it is the head that absorbs the majority of the force of the check. Second, the head contact on this play is avoidable. Aube-Kubel chooses an angle of approach that cuts across Foote’s body, missing his core and picking his head. If Aube-Kubel wants to deliver this hit, he must stay low and choose an angle that leads to a full body check through the shoulder and core rather than one that makes the head the main point of contact.”
DoPS ended the video with a quick summary, explaining that the three-game suspension was due to the hit a) being an illegal check to the head and b) leading to an injury. However, he was not given a higher punishment because he has “no significant history” of trouble with the league. Over the course of his 178-game career, he has been fined twice and had never been suspended.
NAK will miss all three games on the upcoming road swing, including the rematch in Tampa on Sunday, Tuesday’s tilt with the Florida Panthers and Thursday’s tilt with the St. Louis Blues. He will be back in the lineup, though, for a tilt with his former team and defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche.
Aube-Kubel has played in just three games for Washington so far. The Capitals picked up the 26-year-old off waivers back on Nov. 5 to help fill in for a myriad of injured forwards up front, while the team also looked to bring some more production to the bottom-6. He has been skating on the third line with Anthony Mantha and Lars Eller.