Panthers D Dmitry Kulikov banned two games for check to head

Updated:

The NHL Department of Player Safety suspended Florida Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov for two games Monday for an illegal check to the head.

Kulikov had a hearing earlier Monday to discuss a hit on Tampa Bay Lightning forward Conor Sheary that earned him a match penalty and game misconduct Saturday night.

Sheary was among several players going for a loose puck in front of Tampa Bay’s net. After Sheary corralled the puck, Kulikov delivered the hit without playing the puck at all.

In an explanation video, an NHL Department of Player Safety official said the sequence satisfied both elements of the illegal check to the head rule: Sheary’s head was the main point of contact, and the contact was avoidable.

“While we acknowledge that Sheary is turning slightly while making a play on the puck, this motion does not significantly contribute to the head being the main point of contact,” the official said. “Kulikov sees Sheary turning and adjusts his own path, leaning into Sheary and delivering an illegal check to his head.”

Kulikov, 33, had been suspended once previously in his 15-year NHL career. He will miss the Panthers’ next two games, at home against the Nashville Predators on Thursday and at the New York Rangers on Saturday.

Kulikov has 16 assists on the season through 64 games. He has tallied 230 points (45 goals, 185 assists) across 936 career games with Florida (2009-16, 2023-24), Buffalo (2016-17), Winnipeg (2017-20), New Jersey (2020-21), Edmonton (2021), Minnesota (2021-22), Anaheim (2022-23) and Pittsburgh (2023).