Tampa Bay Lightning D Erik Cernak suspended 2 games for Dahlin hit

(Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak has been suspended by the NHL Department of Player Safety for two games following his hit on Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin.

The Tampa Bay Lightning has struggled with their fair share of injuries this season. It’s because of this the Lightning knows all-too-well what it’s like to head into a big game missing one of their key players. Regrettably, the Lightning will head into the next two games in this very situation, minus the injury part, that is.

The NHL Department of Player Safety announced Tuesday evening they have suspended Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak for two games following an illegal hit he executed against Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin on Monday night at the Amalie Arena in Tampa.

The situation played out in the final minutes of the second period as the Lightning led the Sabres 3-2. Dahlin carried the puck into the zone and was able to work his way around Lightning forward Yanni Gourde. Cernak was defending in front of the net as Dahlin made his approach.

Cernak took a swipe at the puck with his stick but was unsuccessful in obtaining possession of the puck before Dahlin could get his pass off to a teammate. The 22-year-old Slovakian defenseman had already shifted his weight and committed to making a hit on Dahlin.

While it doesn’t appear Cernak was intentionally headhunting Dahlin, he did ultimately make contact with Dahlin’s head. Regrettably, Rasmus Dahlin suffered an injury as a result of the incident. According to Sabres Head Coach Ralph Krueger, Dahlin has suffered a concussion.

When you take into consideration the nature of the hit and the fact that Dahlin suffered an injury as a result of the play, it is completely reasonable the NHL Department of Player Safety has elected to suspend Cernak for two games. This is the first time in his career Cernak has received any sort of supplemental discipline.

According to Tampa Bay Lightning Beat Writer Bryan Burns, Erik Cernak has reached out to Rasmus Dahlin to apologize for the incident and wish him well in his recovery.

As we mentioned before, from where we were sitting it didn’t look as if Erik Cernak had any sort of intent to injure on the play, but this is unfortunately exactly what unfolded. According to The Athletic’s Joe Smith, Cernak asserts he did not intend to injure Dahlin and he respects the league’s decision in the matter.

This is definitely not the news the Tampa Bay Lightning was hoping to receive, but given the details of the situation, it’s not entirely unexpected. The Lightning will also be without the assistance of captain Steven Stamkos as they take the ice tonight to face off against the St. Louis Blues.

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It’s certainly going to be interesting to see how the Lightning responds tonight as they take on the defending Stanley Cup Champions. Things didn’t go the Lightning’s way in their first meeting with St. Louis this season, but the team has been on quite the upswing since then. Here’s hoping the Lightning can keep momentum on their side and bring home another two points tonight in Tampa.