The NHL suspended Thrashers forward Colby Armstrong for two games on Friday, one day after he delivered a hit to the head of the Capitals’ Mathieu Perreault. The league ruled that Armstrong used his elbow to deliver the hit.
Armstrong will miss Saturday’s game in Pittsburgh, where he spent two and a half seasons before being traded to the Thrashers, and Tuesday’s game against New Jersey. The suspension comes with four games remaining in the regular season and the Thrashers two points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“Obviously, I’m disappointed,” Armstrong told the AJC. “I feel terrible about it. The timing of it because of our position as a team and also personally for myself. It’s one thing that my dad always told me when I learned out to hit, you never reach for a guy like that. I just got caught where he was dodging out of the way and I reached for him and I made a mistake. The good thing is there was no injury on the play.”
“I reached across with my right arm. I just tried to get a piece of him. It happened the way it happened. By no means did I mean to hit him high. I’ve always been a guy that with my hits my arms are down. I hit with my shoulder. I keep my arms in and try to hit the way I’m supposed to. This one time, I got caught in a head-to-head going at him and he gave me a couple moves and I just tried to get a piece of him and I paid the price.”
With Armstrong out of the lineup, Evander Kane will take his place. Kane returns after missing 15 games with a fractured left foot. He will skate on the left wing with Rich Peverley and Bryan Little.
Early in Thursday’s 2-1 Capitals win, Washington’s John Erskine received a roughing penalty for a closed-fist shot to Armstrong’s face.
“I think it was much the same play,” Armstrong said. “It was my hand and not my forearm that hit (Perreault). I gave a little sidestep as (Erskine) came in to finish me and he caught me in the face. He got called for roughing and I got two games on more of a body check. It is what it is. I’m moving forward. I’m disappointed for a lot of different reasons.”
Under the terms of the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, Armstrong will lose $24,870.47. The money goes to the Players’ Emergency Assist Fund.
A hearing was held by conference call Friday morning and Armstrong was informed of the suspension after leaving the practice ice in preparation for Saturday’s game against the Penguins.
“I told them what happened and the way I felt,” Armstrong said.
The Thrashers, who are carrying 15 forwards, will have to use such depth to remain in the playoff race.
“We have to come together as a team and everyone has to step up because we need these points,” Peverley said.
“He’s been a big part of the team. He does his job very well,” Jim Slater said. “That’s why we have 15 forwards on this team, and they are good forwards, to step right in. You never plan for this to happen, but that’s why you have to stay ready.”
In other news from Friday:
* Evgeny Artyukhin did not practice and was labeled questionable by Thrashers coach John Anderson for Saturday’s game. He has an upper-body injury.
* Pavel Kubina did practice with the team but was also labeled questionable by Anderson. He missed Thursday’s game against the Capitals with an upper-body injury.
* Anderson said a decision has not been made on which goaltender will start against the Penguins.
* Here are the lines the team used in practice:
Dark Blue: Slater-Stapleton-MacArthur
Light Blue: Boulton-Reasoner-Thorburn
Armstrong and Kozlov skated with the Dark Blue line.