BRANDON — Nate Thompson, one of the Lightning's key players, was suspended for two games Saturday for a check to the head of Devils forward Matt D'Agostini during Friday night's 5-4 shootout win.
Midway through the second period, D'Agostini was looking down to search for the puck in the neutral zone when Thompson hit him in the head with his shoulder. Any hit resulting in contact with an opponent's head where the head is targeted and the principal point of contact is not permitted.
D'Agostini stayed in the game with no apparent injuries, and no penalty was called.
Thompson, 28, who never has been fined or suspended in a six-year career, said it wasn't his intent to hurt D'Agostini. The center was finishing his check and his shoulder "probably hit him in the wrong spot."
"I play the game hard. I play it clean," Thompson said. "It's never your intention to hurt anybody out there. Things happen in this league, and things happen fast, and sometimes you're in situations where the league has to make a decision. It's unfortunate it has to be two games."
Thompson said he is glad D'Agostini is okay. The most disappointing part for him is having to miss key games as the Lightning tries to crawl back into the playoff race.
Thompson, recently signed to a four-year, $6.4 million contract extension, is coming off one of his best games. He logged a season-high 22 minutes, 26 seconds, and scored a goal that coach Jon Cooper said "lifted our team" when he tied the score with the Devils at 2 in the second period.
Thompson, who has seven goals, four assists and is a top penalty killer, could be replaced in the lineup by C Dana Tyrell. "We have a lot of guys on the team that can step up and play big minutes," Thompson said.
He forfeits $9,729.72 in salary to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund. He will miss games Tuesday against the Panthers and Thursday against the Hurricanes, and can return Saturday against the Islanders.
COOL CORY: Rookie wing Cory Conacher played just 8:22 Friday, but it's not because he was in Cooper's doghouse. Cooper said it was partly due to him wanting to use veterans early. Conacher played more in the second and third. "I think it was probably me leaning on the guys that have been there before, and probably being a first-game coach," Cooper said. "And I thought Conacher had two of our greatest scoring chances. I thought he played really well."
FIRST FIGHT: Rookie D Radko Gudas has dropped his gloves many times in his pro career, but Friday's first-period bout with Devils F Tom Kostopoulos was his first NHL fight.
Gudas held his own, trading punches before Kostopoulos lost his balance.
"I was really pumped. My heart was beating really fast," Gudas said. "I was really fired up to do something. It was a lot of adrenaline. I realized after the game that was my first fight. I was pretty excited."
Misc.: Cooper hinted he would lean on "grizzled vet" Mathieu Garon in goal with Anders Lindback (ankle) out, saying he's not a "big quick-trigger guy."