Perezhogin regrets hit

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:56 AM ET

MONTREAL -- Some shameful memories haunt Alexander Perezhogin back in Hamilton, a good reason the 22-year-old winger is trying his hardest this month to stay here with the Canadiens.

Perezhogin has been one of coach Claude Julien's better players, hoping to make fans forget a charge of assault causing bodily harm from the 2004 American Hockey League playoffs between his Bulldogs and the visiting Cleveland Barons. Retaliating for a hard slash from Cleveland's Garret Stafford on his helmet, Perezhogin took a wild baseball style swing at the defenceman and caught him flush in the face, opening a 20-stitch cut, causing a Grade 3 concussion and sending Stafford into seizures on the ice.

As the incident was played over and over on TV, Perezhogin was kicked out for the rest of the playoffs and all of 2004-05, an AHL disciplinary record. He got around that by playing in Omsk of the Russian League last year, winding up on a line with Jaromir Jagr.

Last spring, the Kazakh pleaded guilty and was given a conditional discharge with a 12-month probation. He was ordered to donate $5,000 to charity and pay $2,500 for Stafford's medical bills.

Stafford made a full recovery and played last season. Perezhogin will be spared a criminal record if he adheres to the conditions of the sentence.

"It was hard," Perezhogin said yesterday, speaking of his notoriety through Habs teammate/interpreter Raitis Ivanans.

"The incident was not something I was proud of, but I got past it and now my goal is to make the team and do the right thing here."

AHL president Dave Andrews told Montreal reporters earlier this year that Perezhogin should not be allowed back to work in any league, but Julien wants him to have a second chance.

"There's no doubt the (AHL) did the right thing," Julien said. "We're trying to clean up the game and we respect their decision. But by nature, he's not that type of player."

"He has to look ahead of him, and to me, that's a bright future in the NHL."


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