Right winger Jake Voracek’s, one of the Flyers’ most dynamic offensive players, was suspended for two games by the NHL on Sunday for a third-period incident in Saturday’s 5-2 win over the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.
The Flyers’ slim playoff hopes thus became even slimmer. Voracek will miss home games this week against Ottawa (Monday) and Washington (Thursday). The Flyers are five points out of a playoff spot with 14 games remaining.
Flyers officials did not respond to text messages asking if they planned to appeal the suspension.
Based on his salary, Voracek will forfeit $88,708, which goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.
Voracek, who missed two games last week because of an apparent knee injury, has been a key performer in the team’s 17-4-2 surge. He has 25 points in his last 22 games, including two assists in his return to the lineup Saturday on Long Island.
The 29-year-old veteran had a phone hearing Sunday with the NHL Player Safety Department for his interference on the Islanders’ Johnny Boychuk in the Flyers’ easy win.
With 14:19 left in the third period, Voracek was assessed a five-minute interference penalty. Boychuk skated into the back of a braced Voracek – who lifted his body slightly and leaned slightly backward as the Isles’ 35-year-old defenseman crashed into him. Boychuk went to the ice and appeared to injure a shoulder and did not return to the game.
The 6-foot-2, 214-pound Voracek said he saw the 6-2, 227-pound Boychuk was about to hit him, and “I tried to protect myself and, to be honest, maybe the puck was a little further [ahead] than I thought.”
In its video explaining the suspension, the NHL said Voracek’s “substantial contact” with Boychuk’s head and the “force of the hit” were among the reasons for the supplemental discipline.
As Boychuk was helped off the ice Saturday, he had words with Voracek, who by then was sitting in the penalty box.
“He’s pointing at me like it’s WrestleMania or something,” Voracek said after the game. “Come on, it’s a hockey game. This is a guy who was sucker-punching 19-year-old Nolan Patrick last year at the end of the game, and he’s going to do that. Give me a break.”
Voracek was not given a game misconduct.
“The explanation I got was if I hit him in the head, it would be a game [misconduct],” Voracek said. “I don’t know why I got five [minutes].”
The Flyers face the Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center on March 23.
The Flyers will meet a Senators team that has lost three straight and has just 52 points, the fewest in the 31-team NHL. Ottawa allowed a last-minute goal Saturday as it lost to surging Boston, 3-2.
Carter Hart, the Flyers rookie goalie who has been sidelined by an ankle injury, could make his first appearance since he allowed three early goals and was pulled in a 5-1 loss in Montreal on Feb. 21. It was later revealed that Hart (2.79 goals-against average, .917 save percentage) was injured in warmups before that game but didn’t tell the team.
“I’m ready to go,” Hart said last week.
The Flyers, with Voracek collecting a career-high five points, scored a 7-4 win in Ottawa on Oct. 10. The Senators won the rematch, 4-3, at the Wells Fargo Center on Nov. 27, scoring three goals in a 5:29 span late in the game to erase a 3-1 deficit.
The Senators have since been dismantled, trading Mark Stone, Matt Duchene, and Ryan Dzingel, a trio that had accounted for 41 percent of Ottawa’s goals.