Winnipeg Jets defenceman Neal Pionk suspended 2 games for kneeing

The Winnipeg Jets will be without one of their top blueliners for the next few games.

The NHL department of player safety suspended Jets defenceman Neal Pionk for two games for kneeing on Monday.

The suspension comes after Pionk collided with Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Rasmus Sandin in the third period of the Jets’ victory. The hit forced Sandin to leave the game with an injury and he did not return.

Pionk will lose $58,750 in lost salary.

In the video explanation of the suspension, the department of player safety said the onus is on Pionk to take an angle of approach that he can make a legal check. And it resulted in a forceful, dangerous, and direct knee-on-knee contact.

It’s the first time the 26-year-old has been suspended or fined in his five-year NHL career.

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Pionk was not given a penalty at the time of the incident, and the Leafs soon retaliated with Jason Spezza hitting a fallen Pionk in his upper body with a knee. It was not penalized either.

Spezza will have an in-person hearing via Zoom on Tuesday, Dec. 7, and could face a suspension of five or more games.

It was a busy day for the NHL’s department of player safety who also levied a fine from the rough and tumble affair. Leafs forward Wayne Simmonds was docked $2,250 for cross-checking Jets forward Jansen Harkins.

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Pionk will miss Tuesday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes and Thursday’s match against the Seattle Kraken.

He’ll be eligible to return on Friday against the Vancouver Canucks.

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