MONTREAL -- Any momentum to do something about hits from behind in the NHL isn't going to be coming from the players.
The latest incident -- which saw Canadiens forward Tom Kostopolous suspended for three games for a hit from behind on Toronto's Mike Van Ryn -- made the dangerous hits the topic du jour at yesterday's morning skates.
While Kostopolous was contrite and said he might change his approach a little bit when it comes to hitting players in Van Ryn's position, most of the players talking yesterday were assigning a share of the blame for the incident to Van Ryn, who turned away from Kostopolous just before he delivered the hit.
"(Van Ryn) looked over his shoulder and he knew he was coming," said Senators defenceman Christoph Schubert, who started the season as a forward and has been in both positions. "As a defenceman, you have to be prepared to take the hit. You don't bend over and put your head down on a forechecker.
"Kostopolous knew right away he made a mistake. I see both points. It's a tough judgment, but it would be different if (Van Ryn) didn't know he was coming."
"Sometimes you put yourself at risk by trying to avoid the contact," said Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau. "I think in the old days, they didn't avoid it. Now there's a lot more turning your back because you think you can get away with it. Most of the time players don't want to get hit. Probably one of the reasons why he only got three was because the guy turned and put himself at risk."
Kostopolous said he tried calling Van Ryn and wound up exchanging text messages. He didn't want to reveal the contents other than to say Van Ryn's reply "was nothing bad."
"I'll try and speak to him. I don't know if he wants to speak to me right now. I'll try and call him and explain what happened. Right now, I just wish him the best and hope he gets back on the ice," said Kostopolous.
"I hope he realizes I didn't mean to hurt him or run him from behind. I meant for it to be a clean check and it ended up in a bad situation."
Van Ryn suffered a concussion, a facial cut, a broken nose and a broken bone in his hand and is expected to be out for a month.
Will Kostopolous change things when faced with a similar situation?
"I've been thinking about that for the last few days. I think when you're forechecking, maybe you have to give that D an extra second. I thought he was going to the left and behind the net, but obviously, I wasn't 100% sure. Maybe you have to wait until you're 100% sure which way he's going to turn before finishing (the check).
"I hope this doesn't tarnish my reputation, but I definitely have to face the consequences. I don't think I'm a dirty player. I don't think I've tried to hurt anyone. It was just a bad situation."
HEAR AND THERE
Mea culpa: I said yesterday Senators G Alex Auld's one career win over the Canadiens was by shutout, but that's not the case. He had a shutout against the Habs, but lost the game in a shootout. When I pointed my mistake out to Auld yesterday he said it actually happened to him twice last year with the Bruins. Two shutouts, two losses. That is tough ... Agitator Jarkko Ruutu tried to get things going for the Senators in the third, taking a big run at Montreal's Maxime Lapierre. Ruutu caught him with an elbow and big Georges Laraque was on the ice for the Habs, but it was little Francis Bouillon who dropped the gloves and tussled with Ruutu in Lapierre's defence.
Not a bad first period for Montreal's Chris Higgins last night, huh? He scored the only goal of the period -- short-handed -- and that was one of eight shots he took. Five found the mark and another three missed. Higgins scored once in the second and third periods, too, to record his first career hat trick ... Schubert took a penalty in the second period when he hooked Laraque (no points this season). The question is: Why bother hooking him?
Senators rookie Jesse Winchester often stays on the ice to play "keep away" with Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, learning how to strip the puck and protect it. The other day he stayed out with W Chris Neil, working on his grappling and fighting skills. "You just don't want to give the other guy a good opportunity to get a good one in on ya," said Neil. Words to live by ... From the social file: Sharks defenceman and Ottawa native Dan Boyle and his wife, Amber, have a new daughter: Eastin Sky Boyle.
Dumb move of the night: During a scrum around the Montreal net at the end of the first period, Canadiens D Mike Komisarek shoved Ruutu over Canadiens G Carey Price, who was kneeling behind Ruutu. It looked like one of the those grade-school pranks kids play. Only problem is you don't want to be pushing 200-plus lbs. of hockey player on top of Price, your meal ticket.