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No suspension for hit on Lightning’s Erik Cernak

Chicago’s Connor Murphy will receive no further punishment for the hit to the head of the Tampa Bay defenseman.
Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak is hit by Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy as he skates behind the Chicago net in the second period.
Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak is hit by Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy as he skates behind the Chicago net in the second period. [ Photo from video/NBC Sports ]
Published Mar. 9
Updated Mar. 9

With defenseman Erik Cernak expected to return to the Lightning lineup for Tuesday night’s game in Detroit, Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy — whose illegal hit knocked Cernak out of Sunday’s game in Chicago — will not receive a suspension.

Murphy’s hit, which came midway through the Lightning’s 6-3 win over the Blackhawks at the United Center, occurred when Cernak was circling behind the Chicago net with the puck. Murphy approached from the opposite site and hit Cernak in the head with his shoulder.

Cernak was on the ground for several moments before leaving the ice under his own power and did not return. He practiced on Monday and participated in Tuesday’s morning skate, and Lightning coach Jon Cooper said he expected him to play Tuesday night.

“I think that wasn’t an ideal hit, that was a little bit high,” Cernak said before Tuesday’s game. “What can you do right now? There’s no point to talk about it any more.”

Murphy received a match penalty and was ejected from the game. The league’s Department of Player Safety reviewed the play and ruled against suspending or fining Murphy.

After the game, Lightning forward Alex Killorn said Murphy took advantage of a defenseless player.

On Tuesday, Cooper said the play looked worse live than it did when he reviewed it on tape.

“On tape you always have the power of pause, and you can go through every single detail,” Cooper said. “But the kid turned his back, I think the head wasn’t the principal point of contact, so it’s a little more unfortunate. It looked way worse on the ice, but Cerny looks like he’ll be okay.”

Cooper said defenseman Jan Rutta, who missed the past two games with a lower-body injury, could return Tuesday but called it a game-time decision.

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.

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