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NHL suspends Tampa Bay Lightning wing Evgeny Artyukhin for knee-to-knee hit with Florida Panthers' Ville Peltonen

TAMPA — Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said he does not agree with the NHL's two-game suspension of RW Evgeny Artyukhin for Saturday's knee-to-knee hit with Florida's Ville Peltonen.

He also worries Artyukhin will be "branded" by referees — that is, watched more closely, which could inhibit the 6-foot-5, 259-pounder's hard-hitting style for fear of being penalized. "He has to play aggressive to be in this league," Tocchet said Monday. "He's starting to get it."

Artyukhin, 25, who will be available Jan. 27 against the Canadiens, will lose $10,215.06 to the Players Emergency Assistance Fund.

Tocchet doesn't believe the suspension was warranted. He said Artyukhin didn't extend his leg on what the player called an accidental collision in the second while skating to the bench for a line change. "You obviously respect the process," Tocchet said of the league. "They have to go through their thing, but you don't have to agree with it."

Artyukhin said he learned of the suspension Sunday night from Mike Murphy, the league's vice president of hockey operations. He said he asked Murphy to pass along an apology to Peltonen, who had an MRI exam on his right knee, which, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel sustained only a deep bruise.

"I apologized because I didn't do it on purpose," Artyukhin said. "I'm not a guy who tries to give injuries to players. I want to play physical, but I don't want to hit somebody like that."

Hits by Artyukhin this season have injured Montreal's Alex Tanguay (shoulder) and Los Angeles' Drew Doughty (thigh). Both hits were clean.

"Mike Murphy assured us the officials won't tag him," Tocchet said. "We'll see how it goes. Like I said, he has to play that way."

Defenseman claimed: Cory Murphy was claimed off re-entry waivers from the Panthers to help an injured blue line.

Paul Ranger (upper body), Marek Malik (ankle), Matt Smaby (lower body) and Jamie Heward (concussion) were out against the Stars on Monday. Murphy joined healthy defensemen Andrej Meszaros, Lukas Krajicek, Kevin Quick, Steve Eminger and David Koci, a converted forward.

Murphy, 30, has played in eight NHL games this season because of a shoulder injury and Friday was assigned to ECHL Florida. The Panthers and Lightning will share what's left of his $875,000 contract.

Ward's season over: W Jason Ward, demoted Nov. 8 to AHL Norfolk, will have season-ending surgery today on a torn left-shoulder labrum. Lightning medical director Ira Guttentag will perform the surgery.

Odds and ends: Murphy was the 40th player to play for Tampa Bay, a league high. … Mark Recchi's assist gave him 1,410 career points to pass Dale Hawerchuk for 17th all time. … Eminger played a season-high 28:46.

NHL suspends Tampa Bay Lightning wing Evgeny Artyukhin for knee-to-knee hit with Florida Panthers' Ville Peltonen 01/19/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 20, 2009 8:59am]

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