Col­li­sions hap­pen

Rangers: Niska­nen hit that in­jured Crosby a ‘fluke,’ not ma­li­cious

Cape Breton Post - - Sports - BY DE­NIS P. GOR­MAN

Tan­ner Glass knows col­li­sions hap­pen when an NHL player goes hard to the net. That’s why he calls the high­speed hit which left Pitts­burgh Pen­guins su­per­star cen­tre Sid­ney Crosby with a con­cus­sion an un­avoid­able in­ci­dent.

Crosby was hurt when he was hit in the head by Wash­ing­ton’s Matt Niska­nen in Game 3 of their East semi­fi­nal on Mon­day. Glass, who played with Crosby over two sea­sons in Pitts­burgh, said there was no ma­li­cious in­tent on the part of the Cap­i­tals de­fence­man.

“I didn’t see a big is­sue with the play,” Glass said fol­low­ing the Rangers’ prac­tice at Madi­son Square Gar­den Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon fol­low­ing their 4-1 win over Ot­tawa in Game 3 of their Eastern Con­fer­ence semi­fi­nal.

“As far as what Niska­nen did, you see that play all the time. (He has) two hands on his stick when a guy comes to­wards you, you stiffen up and push back a lit­tle bit. Un­for­tu­nately he caught him in a bad spot.”

Niska­nen was given a ma­jor penalty and game mis­con­duct for the hit, but avoided fur­ther dis­ci­pline from the NHL.

“I thought the five-minute ma­jor was suf­fi­cient,” said Glass. “It’s a tough play. He’s go­ing to the net hard. (Cap­i­tals cap­tain Alex Ovechkin) whacks him with the stick hard and I think he was taken off guard a lit­tle bit by that, re­acted to that and he was kind of go­ing down.”

Rangers de­fence­men Brady Sk­jei and Brendan Smith con­curred with Glass’ as­sess­ment of the play.

“It’s all just re­ac­tion. He’s not ob­vi­ously try­ing to hurt Crosby in that sit­u­a­tion. Crosby’s com­ing at him and he puts his hands up. It’s a tough play,” Sk­jei said. “The game’s so fast that at times you just re­act and stuff hap­pens. It looked like he was just try­ing to pro­tect him­self. It was just a fluke play.”

Was there any­thing Niska­nen could have done dif­fer­ently in that sit­u­a­tion?

“It seems like a quick, high­speed play. Ob­vi­ously you try not to get your hands in some­body’s face, or the stick. Any time that hap­pens you’re prob­a­bly go­ing to the box. It’s just un­for­tu­nate there was an in­jury from it,” Smith said. “More or less (it’s a) first re­ac­tion. Sometimes you brace your­self and that could hap­pen. Sid was down low. Those things hap­pen. That’s the game of hockey.”

The gen­eral con­sen­sus is that Crosby was in an un­ex­pected po­si­tion when Niska­nen made con­tact.

The play be­gan when Crosby cut to­wards the net and ab­sorbed a slash to the arm by Ovechkin be­fore be­ing clipped on the side of the head by the Cap­i­tals star’s stick. Al­most si­mul­ta­ne­ously, the two stars’ skate blades made con­tact caus­ing Crosby to fall to his knees as his body con­torted oddly while on a high speed, straight line path to Niska­nen.

The for­mer Pen­guin got his arms and stick up, and the col­li­sion was in­evitable.

Crosby laid prone on the ice for a few min­utes be­fore be­hind helped off the ice. Ini­tially Niska­nen was as­sessed a mi­nor penalty for cross-check­ing be­fore ref­er­ees Brad Meier and Brad Wat­son, and lines­men Pierre Raci­cot and Matt MacPher­son con­ferred. Mo­ments later, Niska­nen was as­sessed his pun­ish­ment.

Glass said he felt the de­ci­sion was suf­fi­cient.

The Rangers and Se­na­tors re­sume their se­ries tonight in New York, with Ot­tawa lead­ing 2-1.

Se­na­tors coach Guy Boucher said Zack Smith and Bobby Ryan were day-to-day be­fore not­ing he “did not see” Ryan “not play­ing” Game 4. Boucher also hinted Tom Py­att and Chris Wide­man could dress tonight.

Rick Nash didn’t par­tic­i­pate in New York’s prac­tice. Alain Vigneault called it “main­te­nance,” and added Nash “would be good to go” for Game 4 tonight.

AP PHOTO

New York Rangers’ Michael Grab­ner (left) looks to con­trol the puck in front of Ot­tawa Se­na­tors’ Dion Pha­neuf dur­ing Game 3 of an NHL Stan­ley Cup sec­ond-round play­off se­ries Tues­day in New York.

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