By Mark Lamport-Stokes
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - New York Rangers forward Daniel Carcillo will be eligible to play in Game Four of the Stanley Cup Finals after the National Hockey League reduced his original 10-game ban to six on Tuesday.
Carcillo was suspended last month for physically abusing an official during a playoff game but NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman decided to reduce the penalty after holding a hearing with the player in New York on Friday.
"I'm just happy I could say my piece and be a part of it, say my side of the story," Carcillo told reporters at Staples Center on Tuesday ahead of Wednesday's Game One of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Los Angeles Kings.
"I think he took it into account, and Gary was great. The league was great."
Carcillo's initial ban resulted after he was assessed a game misconduct penalty under Rule 40.3, "Physical Abuse of Officials," the league said in a statement.
The 29-year-old left wing physically applied force to linesman Scott Driscoll while being escorted to the penalty box late in the first period of New York's 3-2 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens on May 22.
"Any player who deliberately applies physical force to an official in any manner ... without intent to injure, or who spits on an official, shall be automatically suspended for not less than 10 games," the NHL said at the time.
However, Bettman on Tuesday ruled that Carcillo's actions "were more appropriately deemed a violation of Rule 40.4 for deliberately applying physical force to an official for the sole purpose of getting free of such official during or immediately following an altercation".
Bettman said in a statement: "The National Hockey League does not and will not, under any circumstances, tolerate or condone the abuse, physical or otherwise, of our on-ice officials.
"The strict and proper enforcement of Rule 40, therefore, plays a critical role in safeguarding the integrity of the game by maintaining a safe and respectful working environment for our officials."
Carcillo has already served three games of his original suspension, and therefore would be eligible to return for Game Four of the Stanley Cup Finals, in New York on June 11.
Carcillo, who has played for five different teams in the league, has scored two goals for the Rangers in eight playoff games this year.
(Editing by Frank Pingue)
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