Eager suspended 4 games

Atlanta Thrashers Ben Eager is restrained by linesman Dan Schachte after a hit on Toronto Maple...

Atlanta Thrashers Ben Eager is restrained by linesman Dan Schachte after a hit on Toronto Maple Leafs Colby Armstrong January 7, 2011. REUTERS/Tami Chappell

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:30 PM ET

ATLANTA -- Ben Eager does not think justice was served.

Reacting to the four-game suspension slapped on him by Colin Campbell on Saturday for sucker-punching the Maple Leafs' Colby Armstrong, Eager suggested to reporters that the NHL's chief disciplinarian made a quick decision in order to avoid being pestered by the press north of the border.

"I guess he just wanted a quiet weekend," Eager said. "(He) didn't want the Toronto media calling him all weekend so he did what he had to do."

Eager pointed to a specific incident involving the Thrashers two weeks ago to highlight just how unfair, in his mind, the league's system of justice actually is.

In the Thrashers' 4-1 loss at Boston on Dec. 23, Milan Lucic sucker-punched Atlanta's Freddy Meyer and received a match penalty. Lucic was not suspended but received a $2,500 fine.

"I'm surprised in one way but there's no real parity in these suspensions that are handed out," Eager said. "The last two incidents that I've seen, both had no gloves on and they both knocked a guy out.

"The Lucic incident, he suckers a guy who's not even looking and he gets fined $2,500 ... Then Jody Shelley does the same thing to a guy who is watching and he gets two games. And I get four somehow for hitting a guy when I do have my glove on."

Eager denied suggestions that Armstrong did not see the blow coming.

"(Armstrong was) looking right in my face, we're looking eye to eye."

Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay, one of the more level-headed personalities in the game, accepted the punishment handed out to Eager but, like Eager, brought up the incident that felled Meyer.

"The league, they're in charge of that, of course," Ramsay said. "And for Ben, it's too bad as we move through this game. Our complaint, I guess, would be with the Freddy Meyer hit that was deemed OK.

"We just don't question the league, we just move on and deal with it and put somebody else in the lineup at this point."

Eager received an automatic one-game suspension when he was saddled with a deliberate attempt to injure penalty for his cheap shot to the face of Armstrong late in the second period of Toronto's 9-3 victory over the Thrashers. After reviewing the incident, Campbell piled on three additional games to the sentence.

Armstrong's right eye immediately swelled shut from the blow, causing coach Ron Wilson to remove him from the game for the rest of the evening.

After the final horn had sounded, the incident spawned a war of words between the teams. Wearing a bandage over his right eye, Armstrong called Eager a "meat head." Leafs forward Clarke MacArthur piped in as well, referring to the Atlanta tough guy as "an idiot who runs out of control out there."

Eager had his own impressions of Armstrong, the Leafs superpest.

He's one of the biggest phonies in the league," Eager said at the time. "He's done his fair share of dirty stuff in this league and he'll never answer the bell.

"But what goes around comes around so I'm sure some day someone will catch him with his head down."

Eager acknowledged the Thrashers took exception to a low hit by Armstrong near Rich Peverley's knee in the first period.

As part of his punishment, Eager will forfeit $20,752.68 of his salary, monies that will go towards the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.

Eager, whose penalties in the game led directly to five Leaf power play goals, will miss games at Carolina Jan. 9, against Philadelphia Jan. 14, at Dallas on Jan. 15 and at Florida Jan. 17. He will be eligible to return to the Thrashers lineup on Jan. 20 against Tampa Bay.

Armstrong's Leafs and Eager's Thrashers next meet on Feb. 7 at the Air Canada Centre. Make sure you circle that one on your calendars.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/zeisberger


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