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It's hard to believe that, 160 games into his NHL career, Leo Komarov has never been suspended.

That will change before his next game.

Komarov was tossed from the Toronto Maple Leafs game in the first period on Thursday after flinging his elbow into the head of New York Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh and has a hearing with the NHL's department of player safety on Friday.

McDonagh was playing on his second game back after missing four with a concussion. He sat on the bench for the final minute of the first period but didn't return to the game.

The Rangers were not impressed.

"It's a hit we're trying to get rid of," Derek Stepan told reporters after the game.

"Something needs changing," added defenceman Marc Staal. "There's no reason for that hit."

Coach Alain Vigneault declined to comment, other than to say that the league would handle it and he hoped his captain was all right.

Komarov has been one of the most prolific hitters in the NHL over his three seasons. He currently sits third in the league with 245 in 56 games, and the majority of those are, by the book, clean.

But the biggest reason Komarov gets under opponents' skin so well is the way he hits. He doesn't trash talk, and he doesn't retaliate. He just hits slightly late. Or slightly high. Or using the forearm or from behind. Sometimes all of the above.

What he doesn't do is take a lot of penalty minutes, and he has never been suspended because those borderline hits are typically on the right side of the border the league has set up. He also rarely causes a serious injury, which – like it or not – is part of what flags something as suspension-worthy.

Not this time.

On McDonagh, it was a sort of pick play, where the contact was all elbow on face. Leafs coach Mike Babcock noted that McDonagh was "kind of crouched" when he went for a loose puck and Komarov hit him, but it's unlikely that prevents a suspension.

The head was the principal point of contact – even if inadvertently – and that's what the NHL is trying to crack down on.

"Leo plays hard," Babcock said. "He's not a dirty player by any means… It is unfortunate."

The "not dirty" description would be disputed by some other players around the league. Komarov's hit on Kris Letang in December, for example, is one the Pittsburgh Penguins took issue with, and that's just an example from the last 20 games.

Then there was his hit from behind on Montreal's PK Subban in the first game of the year.

In fact, those kinds of hits from behind should actually be met with supplementary discipline more often than they are, given the danger involved.

But the point is there's a larger body of work there, and it's not always pretty. That this is Komarov's first suspension feels lucky more than anything, as had Letang or Subban been badly hurt, you have to think the department of player safety would have tapped him on the shoulder already.

On Thursday, Komarov used his elbow, hit a star player on a high profile team, and caused an injury.

His luck is likely up.