NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has upheld the 15-game suspension Boston forward Shawn Thornton was assessed for attacking Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik in a Dec. 7 game at TD Garden.
"Simply put, this was a bad act with a bad result," Bettman wrote in a 12-page explanation of his decision, "and neither will be tolerated in our game."
Thornton, who received a match penalty for his actions, had a hearing Friday with Bettman in New York to appeal the initial ruling by Brendan Shanahan, who handles supplemental discipline for the NHL.
Bettman also wrote that "Mr. Thornton's actions were clearly intentional -- they were not accidental -- and nobody could suggest otherwise" and that "in light of all the circumstances relating to the underlying conduct, it is certainly possible to argue for a more severe punishment, but I am comfortable relying on Mr. Shanahan's judgment."
He added that Thornton's punishment could have been more severe if he didn't have "a reputation for being a 'good actor' and a model NHL citizen."
Thornton has one week to decide whether to appeal Bettman's decision to a neutral arbitrator.
Orpik, who received a concussion when Thornton kicked his skates out from under him and then punched him twice in the head while it was flush to the ice, has not played since being injured, although his return to the lineup seems imminent.
Thornton's suspension will cost him $84,615.45 in lost salary.
The Penguins have returned forward Harry Zolnierczyk and defenseman Philip Samuelsson to their American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre.
Those moves suggest the Penguins expect Orpik and/or defensemen Rob Scuderi, as well as winger Tanner Glass, to be available when they visit Carolina on Friday.
Zolnierczyk has one goal in eight games with the Penguins this season; Samuelsson does not have a point in five appearances.
No word on Dupuis
The Penguins offered no update on the precise nature or severity of the injury that knocked first-line right winger Pascal Dupuis out of their 5-0 loss Monday in Ottawa.
Dupuis appeared to injure his right knee when linemate Sidney Crosby fell on it after being hip-checked by Senators defenseman Marc Methot early in the first period.
It is conceivable that extensive swelling, a common feature in knee injuries, has prevented doctors from making an accurate assessment of the damage.
Dupuis has dressed for 238 consecutive games.
The Penguins are in the midst of a three-day holiday break mandated by the collective bargaining agreement negotiated early this year. NHL clubs are not allowed to have any team functions Dec. 24, 25 or 26.
ON THE WEB: To read Gary Bettman's entire explanation, go to: http://www.nhl.com/nhl/en/v3/ext/pdfs/Thornton_DecisionOnAppeal122413.pdf
Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@post-gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG.
First Published December 24, 2013 12:36 PM