BUFFALO – On Monday, hours before the NHL suspended Tyler Myers three games for an illegal check to Dainius Zubrus’ head, the Sabres defenseman said his hulking stature wouldn’t make him change his aggressive style.
“I don’t want to change my game just because of how tall I am,” the 6-foot-8 Myers said after the Sabres prepared for tonight’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes inside the First Niagara Center. “It’s just something that comes with the territory.”
Still, Myers better start exercising more caution. With two suspensions in less than two years, the league’s watching him closely now.
At 7:02 into the third period of Saturday’s 2-1 win against the New Jersey Devils, Myers hit the 6-foot-5 Zubrus high along the wall while killing a penalty, earning a minor for an illegal hit to the head.
In a video posted on NHL.com explaining the suspension, NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan said Myers made Zubrus’ head the main point of contact.
“Just as Zubrus makes his return pass, Myers unnecessarily extends upward and launches himself into Zubrus’ head,” Shanahan said.
Right before impact, Shanahan said, Myers was in position to make a “legal, full-body check” on Zubrus, who was eligible to be hit.
“However, rather than remaining in an athletic position and delivering a check into Zubrus’ chest or shoulder, Myers unnecessarily extends upward and drives his right shoulder into Zubrus’ jaw when head contact such as this was completely avoidable,” Shanahan said.
Shanahan noted Zubrus didn’t change his head or body position and stayed in the game.
Before his phone hearing Monday, Myers said he was expecting a call “just because of what penalty I got on the play.”
“It’s just one of those plays where (I’m) being aggressive,” he said. “I came out of it with a phone call.”
And the second suspension of his five-year career. The NHL banned Myers three games in March 2012 for boarding Montreal’s Scott Gomez.
Interim Sabres coach Ted Nolan said Myers’ hearing didn’t surprise him.
“Anything head area now you’re not surprised,” he said prior to Shanahan’s ruling. “You have to do something to stop players from getting up in that area. It’s a dangerous, dangerous hit.”
Nolan said the “taller players are going to hit in that area all the time.”
“I think they’re really concerned with the head injuries, and rightfully so they should be,” he said.
With Myers and Henrik Tallinder (lower body) out, Nolan joked the defensemen can “bank it off the glass and see what happens.”
Alexander Sulzer will likely replace Myers, who can return next Tuesday against Philadelphia.
Nolan said center Ville Leino (lower body) is “more on a day-to-day basis than he was before.” Leino sounded like he would miss his third straight game tonight.
While the injury wasn’t divulged, Leino battled a hip problem last year.
“It’s probably not going to be as bad as last,” Leino said.
Meanwhile, forward Kevin Porter (lower body, six games) is “getting a little bit better,” Nolan said.
“I think he should be almost ready to hop on the ice here shortly,” he said.
Nolan said Porter didn’t have surgery.
Center Cody Hodgson (hand, seven games) is the closest injured player to returning, Nolan said.
“Cody’s probably winning that footrace to get back,” he said.