Toronto Maple Leafs forward Kyle Clifford received a one-game suspension Tuesday following his hit on Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ross Colton in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round series.
Clifford was ejected from the Maple Leafs’ 5-0 victory on Monday after receiving a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct for boarding. Now he will miss Game 2 of the best-of-seven series, set for Wednesday in Toronto.
Clifford hit Colton into the glass in the neutral zone at 6:59 of the first period. Colton was not injured on the play, and the Lightning mustered just two shots on the ensuing five-minute power play.
The veteran forward had a hearing with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety earlier Tuesday, leading to the department’s ruling that Clifford took a dangerous angle to hit Colton in the back instead of going for the puck.
“From the moment Colton approaches the puck battle until the hit is delivered, Clifford sees nothing but his (jersey) numbers,” a Department of Player Safety official said in an explanatory video. “And while we have heard an argument that Clifford does make some attempt to deliver this contact legally, this remains a forceful hit to a defenseless player who is no longer in possession of the puck.”
Clifford has been fined three times in his 12-year NHL career, but this marks his first suspension.
Clifford, 31, recorded three points (one goal, two assists) and 31 penalty minutes in 23 games with the Maple Leafs this season. He also had an assist in two games with the St. Louis Blues in 2021-22.
–Field Level Media
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