Grinder's role often Kost-ly

CHRIS STEVENSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

MONTREAL -- The Senators won't have to worry about Tom Kostopoulos tonight after the Montreal Canadiens forward was suspended for tonight's game and two more for his hit on Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Mike Van Ryn Saturday night.

The hit from behind left Van Ryn with a concussion, a broken nose and a busted pinky and three games might not seem like a lot for the hit and the injuries it caused, but it was pretty clear on the hit Van Ryn knew Kostopoulos was coming and turned his back to him either to protect the puck or draw a penalty.

Therein lies the difficulty in determining culpability on hits like this one.

On one hand, it seems a little hard-hearted to blame the victim, but Van Ryn put himself in a vulnerable position.

Kostopoulos was steaming in on the forecheck. When you watch the play in slow motion, it's easy to say he should have let up.

It looked like the Canadiens' grinder, who knows his paycheque is earned finishing checks, was only about five feet away and closing fast when Van Ryn turned to his right and presented his numbers to Kostopoulos.

It's a common tactic now for players about to be hit to present their backs when not so long ago, a player would have instead protected himself and greeted such a hit with an elbow or a picket fence.

The suspension would seem to indicate NHL lord of discipline Colin Campbell saw Van Ryn had at least a little responsibility for what happened.

"While it is my deterimination that Kostopoulos did not deliver a check to an unsuspecting opponent, his actions caused injuries," said Campbell. The three-game suspension will cost Kostopoulos about $33,000.

The fact Kostopolous is a repeat offender (he was suspended for a game last year for getting involved in a brawl with Boston's Mark Stuart) also likely contributed to the penalty.

"First and foremost, I sincerely regret the injuries suffered by Mike Van Ryn,'' said Kostopoulos in a statement. "This is an unfortunate turn of events. I was just trying to get in on the forecheck and get the puck. I didn't anticipate him turning and couldn't stop. I was trying to finish my check and obviously it did not end up well. I never intend on injuring another player. I feel bad. I hope he is going to be all right and resume playing as quickly as possible.''

REVELATIONS: A trip to the Bell Centre is always a favourite for Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson. "I think it's one of the best buildings in the world to play in. The fans are really passionate and they're really into their team. They can make the boos when we're losing sound pretty loud and they can be pretty quiet if we're up. It's a special place to play," he said ... Discipline has been a problem for the Habs lately. They've been shorthanded 36 times in their last five games, giving up 11 goals. That hurts the coach's chances of rolling four lines.

SPECULATIONS: A lot of eyes around the NHL are on Tampa Bay to see what is going to happen there next. Talk won't stop that coach Barry Melrose's job is hanging by a thread. There is also talk veteran Gary Roberts is being offered around the league. He has just one assist and with an average of eight minutes and 47 seconds a game, the third-least ice time on the Bolts. His cap hit is $2 million. Ouch...

JUST WONDERING: Has there been a quieter great start to the season in the NHL than the one enjoyed by Senators D Filip Kuba? His 14 assists have him tied for second in the league behind Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin's 18. He's in a four-way tie for the scoring lead among defencemen, but all the talk out of Ottawa is what Jason Spezza isn't doing...

HEAR AND THERE: Hartsburg on Kuba: "He's a pro. He knows his game where some younger defenceman aren't quite sure what their game is. He knows his strengths, he knows his limitations and he plays every night within them. We made the trade thinking he'd be a good player for us. (GM) Bryan (Murray) knew him and the scouting staff thought he'd be a real good player for us. I think he's done what Bryan thought he'd do."...

PARTING SHOT: Canadiens captain Saku Koivu isn't buying the hype around his team which has a lot of people picking them to make it to the Stanley Cup final. "We're lucky to have this many wins and points," he said... Please make sure you thank a veteran for the freedoms you enjoy.


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