PHILADELPHIA – Jake Voracek still isn’t quite sure what he did wrong, but apparently the National Hockey League does.
On Wednesday, the league told Voracek it would uphold the second game of his two-game suspension, meaning he won’t be available for Thursday’s crucial home game against the Washington Capitals.
Voracek was hoping the NHL would see the light regarding his collision with New York Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk last Saturday night at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y.
The Flyers right wing had an appeal hearing in New York on Tuesday but to no avail.
Before the decision was announced around 1 p.m., Voracek said the most frustrating aspect of the suspension was the length of it.
“I think the explanation on the suspension was that I went out of my way to make head contact with Johnny Boychuk which I don’t think I did,’’ Voracek said after practice at the Wells Fargo Center (it was team photo day).
“I don’t think I changed my weight drastically. My explanation was I was bracing for the impact, bracing for the contact. I stand behind it. I didn’t mean anything by it to hurt him. Obviously they saw it differently.’’
It’s the first suspension of Voracek’s career, going back to his days some 10 years ago with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“We made the case, we had a good talk yesterday,’’ Voracek said. “I had a good feeling but they’re not going to tell you how they feel right away, they have to go over it.’’
Voracek said he and NHL Director of Player Safety George Parros shook hands at the end of the meeting but the outcome didn’t change.
As far as rules allowing players to protect themselves, Voracek said a situation like this is more a “judgment’’ call.
“I think it’s a judgment call to be honest,’’ Voracek said. “I was probably taken as the aggressor, which I don’t think I was. But they saw it differently, that’s why gave me two games.
“I tried to make a case that I didn’t mean anything by it.’’
Voracek said initially he was hoping for just a one-game suspension and a fine.
“It was the max (discipline),’’ Voracek said. “I was kind of expecting. . .for that typical play, with my history (no suspensions) that I didn’t deserve two (games).’’
Suffice to say, the rematch game on March 23 should be interesting, given that Boychuk pointed in menacing fashion at Voracek (in the penalty box) as he was helped off the ice.
“I don’t want go into the ‘war’ through the media,’’ he said. “It was a hockey game, it was the heat of the moment. But we’re five points out of a playoff spot and we should be more focused on that than my comments on Johnny Boychuk.’’
Teammate and Czech countryman Radko Gudas said that on a nightly basis he faces the same decision: How and when to counter-attack a player who is about to initiate contact with him.
As a defenseman, Gudas can expect this sort of thing to happen multiple times in a game.
“Obviously it is a judgment call,’’ Gudas said. “Guys need to protect themselves at all times, reaching for pucks or going somewhere with their head first.
“Every time I’m hitting somebody I’m making sure that he’s not in a position where he can be hurt. If he doesn’t protect himself, I need to step back and make sure he doesn’t hurt himself.
“The situation is so bad right now. You pretty much have to know that the guy knows that he’s getting hit to hit him pretty much.’’
Gudas said it’s the first time he’s ever seen a player with his back to the play be considered the aggressor.
“He (Voracek) is a big, solid guy,’’ Gudas said. “He’s really stable on his skates. If anybody runs into him, it’s obviously like hitting a tree. He knows it’s coming.’’
The Flyers will be ready when the Islanders come calling, according to Gudas.
Is Boychuk on the Flyers’ “black list?’’
“Oh yeah,’’ Gudas said with a grin, mindful of Boychuk’s sucker punch on Nolan Patrick last year. “He climbed up the ladder doing that (gesturing at Voracek), too.
“We didn’t really have a big rivalry, a fighting history with them. But that’s not what you want to see – ‘Patty’ (Patrick) getting sucker-punched by him, now he’s pointing at the guy. That’s not the way we want to be known. . .that we’re a team getting punched around.’’
Coach Scott Gordon addressed the media before the ruling came down but did say the Flyers were likely to call up a replacement, which is probably Justin Bailey, who has been shuttling back and forth between the Phantoms and Flyers.
Safe to say the Flyers will miss Voracek for this big game against the Capitals.
“There’s nothing we can do about it,’’ Gordon said. “We just have to move on from it. Other players have to step up. Just like Monday (a 3-2 win over Ottawa) when we got some scoring from ‘Raff’ (Michael Raffl) and ‘Laughts’ (Scott Laughton). You lose a player, you need someone else to come to the forefront.’’
Oskar Lindblom replaced Voracek on the Flyers’ first power play unit at Wednesday’s practice.