|The NHL suspended Oilers defenceman Andy Sutton indefinitely pending a hearing with Brendan Shanahan. (David Bloom/QMI Agency)
EDMONTON - Andy Sutton is wearing out a path on the NHL’s carpet.
The Edmonton Oilers defenceman has played in just 16 games this year and he’s already headed for his second lengthy suspension - this time for Wednesday’s leaping headshot on Carolina’s Alexei Ponikarovsky.
The NHL suspended the 6-foot-6 defenceman indefinitely Thursday pending a hearing with Brendan Shanahan.
Sutton, who already served five games (Oct. 30 to Nov. 10) for a hit on Gabriel Landeskog, is looking at a longer sentence, given his record, this time.
While the suspension for his hit on Landeskog was iffy at best (open ice with the shoulder), this one is bad. Sutton jumps up, leads with his forearms and drives Ponikarovsky’s head into the glass.
Fortunately Ponikarovsky wasn’t injured on the play.
Sutton, because of a groin injury, had only been back for six games since the end of his last suspension. If he got five for the last one, and six games later he does something even worse, he could be looking at double digits.
Sutton, anticipating he was in trouble, refused to speak with the media on Thursday.
Head coach Tom Renney won’t even guess the length of the suspension.
“At the end of the day Andy is a big man and much of his body mass is going to make contact from the shoulders up,” said Renney. “I’ll let the league make the decision.”
Sutton’s teammates can only hope for the best. With defencemen Cam Barker and Corey Potter already out with injuries, and Ryan Whitney still a long way from having fully recovered from his ankle and knee injuries, the Oilers blueline is running on fumes.
“It’s unfortunate for us,” said defenceman Tom Gilbert. “(Sutton) is a big guy. When he goes to hit guys he’s not going for heads. It’s just natural when you hit, you don’t think about where your hands and elbows are going to be.
“It does suck when you lose guys. He was back in the line up and fitting right in again. Losing him again does get a little frustrating after a while.”
Not that there’s much they can do about it.
“We had 5 D injured at one time, you don’t expect that during the season at all,” said Gilbert. “You just have to keep working through it. Injured guys will be coming back pretty quick, hopefully. You just have to keep working with what you have.”