Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov was suspended four games for his hit on Dallas’ Tyler Seguin.
Kulikov missed Florida’s 2-1 shootout loss to St. Louis on Sunday pending Monday’s ruling.
Seguin, who was the second-highest scorer in the league at the time of Friday’s hit, is out at least a month with a knee injury.
Kulikov did not travel with the team for its three-game Canadian tour Monday. Kulikov is expected to meet the team in Pittsburgh and should be in the lineup Sunday against the Penguins.
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By missing four games, Kulikov will forfeit $93,189.96 with the money going to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.
“Kulikov bent severely at the waist and throws his body at Seguin’s knees, flipping Seguin and causing a significant knee injury,’’ said Patrick Burke, an NHL player-safety director, on the video explaining the ruling.
Kulikov went in for a hip check on Seguin as the Dallas forward crossed into the Florida zone.
Seguin made a pass and didn’t see Kulikov coming. Although hip checks are legal, Kulikov appeared to mis-time his and took out Seguin at the knees with his upper body. The league determined Kulikov’s hit was a low body check.
At the time of the hit, Kulikov was charged five minutes for clipping and given a 10-minute game misconduct.
“It’s illegal to throw a body check below the knees,’’ Burke said. “Kulikov delivered a dangerous hit that is excessively low leaving the opposing player no way to defend or brace for the contact.’’
Florida could have some defensive help coming back soon as captain Willie Mitchell is close to a return. Mitchell practiced Monday and traveled to Canada.
“He’s skated four straight days, and he’s doing well,’’ coach Gerard Gallant said.
The Panthers face a Toronto team clearly in the throes of a rebuild Tuesday.
The Maple Leafs, who replaced coach Randy Carlyle with former Florida interim coach Peter Horachek last month, have lost 17 of 19 and came into Monday 12 points out of the final playoff spot in the East.
On Sunday, Toronto traded pending free agents Mike Santorelli and Cody Franson to Nashville. More trades are in the works.
“It has to be tough, and I’m sure they’re feeling it,’’ said Dave Bolland, who played for the Leafs last season.
▪ Former Florida captain Olli Jokinen was acquired by the Leafs on Sunday and reported Monday despite his displeasure with the trade. Jokinen isn’t expected to play against the Panthers.
“You have a job to do and have to respect the game, respect the players you play with,’’ Jokinen told reporters in Toronto. “You have to enjoy playing this game. That’s the bottom line. You do what they tell you.’’
Jokinen isn’t expected to be in Toronto long as GM Dave Nonis said he will try to find the 15-year veteran a home on a playoff contender by the March 2 trade deadline.
Although he has played in 1,217 NHL games (567 over seven seasons with the Panthers), Jokinen appeared in just six postseason games, with Calgary in 2009.
Nashville has the most points in the NHL and is considered a serious Stanley Cup contender.
“You want to see a guy like that succeed, go to the playoffs,’’ said Florida goalie Al Montoya, who played with Jokinen in Winnipeg.
“He went from one of the best teams to a team that looks like it’s rebuilding. He’s a professional, has been his whole career. He knows this game is a business.’’
Next for Panthers
TUESDAY: FLA @ TOR
When/where: 7:30 p.m.; Air Canada Centre, Toronto.
TV/radio: FSFL; WQAM 560.
Series: Toronto leads 33-28-7
Noteworthy: Florida has won four of five against the Leafs, including a 6-4 decision in Sunrise. Toronto has former Florida forward David Booth in its lineup and is coached by former Panthers interim coach Peter Horachek.