Capitals defenseman John Erskine has been suspended for three games for elbowing Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds in the head during the first period of Friday night's game. The play was deemed a "reckless elbow to the head" by the NHL's department of player safety.

Erskine, 32, will forfeit $24,324.33 in pay during the suspension and will not be eligible to return until Feb. 9 when the Capitals host the Florida Panthers. This is the first suspension of Erskine's 10-year NHL career.

In a video explanation of the ruling, Brendan Shanahan, the NHL's vice president of player safety, acknowledged that Erskine did not intend to injure Simmonds and noted that the defenseman is not a repeat offender.

"Erskine and Simmonds are pursuing a 50-50 puck in the Philadelphia zone," Shanahan said in the video. "When Erskine realizes he is going to get beat, he tries to get a piece of his opponent to prevent an out-numbered rush. However, in doing so he raises his elbow striking Simmonds in the face. This is elbowing.

"As the two men approach the puck, Erskine looks up and clearly is aware of Simmonds's proximity before delivering the illegal hit," Shanahan continued. "While we acknowledge there was no malicious intent and that Erskine was reacting to getting beat, this nevertheless is a reckless elbow to the head that caused a serious injury."