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NHL suspends Kings' Matt Johnson for 12 games
Tues. Nov. 24, 1998.

Matt Johnson has thrown a lot of punches in his hockey career, but this one was expensive.

The NHL suspended the Kings left wing for 12 games without pay Monday for punching New York Rangers defenseman Jeff Beukeboom in the head, from behind, in a game Thursday. Beukeboom suffered what is believed to be a mild concussion.

The suspension is the longest in the NHL since 1994, when the Kings' Tony Granato was suspended for 15 games for slashing Pittsburgh's Neil Wilkinson. It will cost Johnson - whose 23rd birthday was Monday - $95,121.96 of his $650,000 salary. He also will count against the Kings' 24-man roster during the suspension.

``The league has made it clear that deliberate blows to the head, particularly those which cause injury to the head of an opponent, will be treated severely,'' NHL senior vice president Colin Campbell said after a hearing in New York with Johnson and Kings general manager Dave Taylor.

``This was a pretty severe suspension, but it's something we will have to deal with, and we will move on,'' Taylor said. ``We certainly can't condone as a team what Matt did. No one likes to see any players get injured.''

Taylor said Johnson expressed remorse for the incident, ``particularly the injury.''

Johnson struck Beukeboom from behind at 7:21 of the third period after the Ranger had checked the Kings' Ian Laperriere into the end boards and a few minutes after Beukeboom had kicked the skates from under Kings wing Glen Murray. Actions similar to Beukeboom's on Murray - called slew-footing - have drawn two suspensions this season, but he was given a two-minute penalty.

Taylor said Beukeboom's slew-footing of Murray was addressed at the hearing. He said the Kings would not appeal Johnson's suspension.

Johnson already has served one game of the suspension, missing a victory Saturday against Chicago.

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

(c) 1998, The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.).