The Philadelphia Flyers will have to begin a difficult three-games-in-four-nights stretch without one of their top players, right winger Jake Voracek.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Wednesday upheld Voracek’s two-game suspension. The right winger appealed the decision and was trying to have it reduced to one game.
Voracek, who has 25 points in his last 22 games and has helped trigger the Flyers’ 18-4-2 surge, sat out Monday’s 3-2 win over Ottawa and he will miss Thursday’s home game against Washington, the defending Stanley Cup champion.
He will return for Friday’s game in Toronto.
With 13 games left, the Flyers are five points behind Columbus for the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot. The Flyers are also five points behind Montreal, and they have a game in hand on both the Blue Jackets and Canadiens.
Before Bettman’s ruling Voracek, who had no previous suspensions, said he had a “good feeling” about how the hearing went. Voracek practiced with the team Wednesday, and got word of Bettman’s decision about an hour after practice.
The 29-year-old was suspended for his interference on the Islanders’ Johnny Boychuk in the Flyers’ 5-2 win Sunday at Nassau Coliseum.
With 14:19 left in that game, Boychuk skated into the back of a braced Voracek — who lifted his body slightly and leaned backward slightly as the 35-year-old Isles defenseman crashed into him.
After the game, the 6-foot-2, 214-pound Voracek said he saw the 6-2, 227-pound Boychuk was about to crash into 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 main reasons for the supplemental discipline, which cost the Flyers winger $88,708 in lost wages.
The Flyers face Washington (Thursday), Toronto (Friday), and Pittsburgh (Sunday) in a four-night stretch, then host Montreal in a key game Tuesday.
On Thursday, rookie goalie Carter Hart will make his first appearance in three weeks when he faces Alex Ovechkin (league-high 46 goals) and the Metropolitan Division-leading Caps. Washington has won a pair of 5-3 decisions against the Flyers this season, beating goalies Mike McKenna and Brian Elliott, respectively.
In that latter loss on March 6, Voracek and Nolan Patrick missed the game with injuries.