Phoenix Coyotes\' Shane Doan skates off the ice as the Dallas Stars celebrate their 4-3 win in a shootout in an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 20, 2012, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
GLENDALE, Ariz. - Shane Doan has been suspended for three games for elbowing Dallas' Jamie Benn, leaving the Phoenix Coyotes without their captain at a crucial time.
The NHL announced the suspension on Wednesday, a day after Doan hit Benn in the head early in the second period of the Stars' 4-3 shootout victory. Doan also will forfeit US$166,000 in salary and will miss nearly half of the Coyotes' final eight games as they push for a playoff spot.
"I accept the NHL's decision and ruling," Doan said in a statement issued by the team. "I am thankful that Jamie Benn was not hurt on the play. I recognize how bad it looked but there was no intent to injure him. Jamie Benn is a class act and I appreciate how he handled everything. I apologize to the NHL, my teammates and our fans for missing the next three games as we continue to fight for a playoff spot."
With Phoenix playing for the Pacific Division lead, Doan raised his right elbow and hit Benn about six minutes into Tuesday night's game. Doan was assessed a two-minute minor and was immediately confronted by Dallas Brenden Morrow. The two captains tussled and fell to the ice, resulting in a five-minute fighting penalty for Doan.
Several other skirmishes broke out across the ice, leading 64 penalty minutes and four misconducts.
Phoenix's Raffi Torres and Rostislav Klesla, along with Dallas' Steve Ott and Trevor Daley also received game misconducts.
Doan was the first player to be suspended under a new rule against shots to the head in 2010, so the latest incident marks him as a repeat offender under the terms of the NHL's collective bargaining agreement. Doan also was fined $2,500 by the NHL last week for a boarding call against Calgary Flames defenceman Mark Giordano.
His suspension comes at a difficult time for the Coyotes.
Phoenix has struggled with injuries all season and played Tuesday's game with Radim Vrbata, Taylor Pyatt, Adrian Aucoin and Kyle Chipchura. The Coyotes are tied with Los Angeles for second in the Pacific with 84 points, one behind Dallas, but are at the edge of the Western Conference playoff race, tied with the Kings for eighth.