Belak to miss rest of regular season

TORONTO -- The NHL suspended Wade Belak eight games for his
two-handed chop to the face of Colorado defenseman Ossi Vaananen.

The Maple Leafs defenseman will be out for Toronto's remaining
six regular-season games and the club's first two postseason games.

Belak slashed Vaananen on Saturday night and was given a match
penalty for attempt to injure. He met with Colin Campbell at the
league's office in Toronto on Monday before the NHL disciplinarian
handed down his decision.

"It was a little severe I think," Belak said. "I wasn't
expecting to walk away with less than three [games], but I thought
no more than five. Getting six plus two, it's kind of harsh."

Belak is a repeat offender, having received a two-game
suspension in November 2002 when he elbowed Washington defenseman
Brendan Witt in the head.

The suspension will cost Belak $67,682.94 in forfeited salary.

"Mr. Belak used his stick in a careless, dangerous and
unacceptable manner," Campbell said in a statement. "Players must
be responsible for their sticks at all times, and blows with the
stick to the head area will not be tolerated."

Six-foot-5, 221-pound Belak has one goal, one assist and 109
penalty minutes in 34 games this season, his fourth with the Leafs.
A career enforcer, he has seven goals, 15 assists and 811 penalty
minutes in 275 career NHL games.

The suspension came one day before Avalanche forward Steve Moore was
expected to be released from a Denver hospital, just two weeks
after his neck was broken by Vancouver's Todd Bertuzzi.

Moore also suffered a concussion and deep lacerations when
Bertuzzi hit him from behind and drove him into the ice during a
March 8 game in Vancouver. Bertuzzi was suspended for the rest of
the regular season and the playoffs, at least.

"I think the timing of it never gave me a fair chance," Belak said. "Being in Toronto playing in a Saturday night game in front
of all the media, I didn't have a chance. They pretty much made up
their mind about what was going to happen to me that night.

"I was off-balance. We need to be responsible for our sticks, I
understand that part, but in no way was I trying to hurt him.
Comparing me to Bertuzzi is kind of unfair."