Leafs' Spezza suspended 6 games for kneeing Jets' Pionk in head

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Toronto Maple Leafs forward Jason Spezza was handed a six-game suspension for kneeing Winnipeg Jets defenseman Neal Pionk in the head, the NHL Department of Player Safety announced Tuesday.

Spezza took a run at a vulnerable Pionk on Sunday after the Jets blue-liner injured Leafs defenseman Rasmus Sandin with a knee-on-knee hit. Sandin is expected to miss two-to-three weeks, while Pionk was suspended two games and had to be placed in concussion protocol.

Here's a look at the incident:

The league considered the play "reckless and retaliatory" and noted Spezza enacted "forceful retribution on a player in a vulnerable position."

Spezza is appealing the ruling, the NHLPA confirmed Wednesday. The first stage of the appeal process will go through NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. Spezza can opt for independent arbitration if he isn't satisfied with Bettman's ruling.

This is the first time Spezza has been suspended or fined in his 19-year NHL career.

The 38-year-old veteran has been an integral player for the Leafs, both for his leadership and on-ice performance. Spezza entered Tuesday tied for fourth on the team with seven goals in 26 games despite averaging only 11:58 of ice time per contest.

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Leafs' Spezza suspended 6 games for kneeing Jets' Pionk in head
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