May 20, 2012
Devils' atrocities worse than Prust, Tortorella says
By LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
NEW YORK - At first mention of a Brandon Prust suspension, John Tortorella was ready with his docket of Devils' atrocities.
"I look at the (Dainius) Zubrus elbow of (Anton) Stralman, I look at (Zach) Parise launching himself at (Michael) Del Zotto. Maybe if our players stay down on the ice, we'll get something," Tortorella said Sunday.
The Rangers' coach was refering to New Jersey defenceman Anton Volchenkov being left prone after the Game 3 elbow from Prust, slowly getting to his feet, and eventually staying in the game.
Still, it's Prust's hit that resulted in a one-game suspension -- he'll be sitting out Monday's fourth game -- that has sparked a heated exchange of words across the Hudson.
Tortorella has not committed to a replacement for Prust.
New Jersey coach Peter DeBoer infuriated the Rangers by calling Prust a head hunter after Game 3, while Tortorella fired back Sunday, protesting Prust's true intent and claiming the Devils are getting away with interference on their power plays so Ilya Kovalchuk has a better look with his deadly point shot.
"The picking on the power play ... if we want to start discussing officials with the media, I have a long list here," Tortorella said. "That's a set play by Jersey, picking so we can't get to Kovalchuk to block. Do you want some more (examples)?"
He stopped himself at that point, but it was enough for DeBoer to call the whole rant "comical" when word reached Newark.
BeforeBrendan Shanahan decided his fate, the Rangers supplied everything along the lines of character reference for Prust, short of having 'Free Brandon' t-shirts distributed to media at Madison Square Garden. More than one player called the fourth-year winger "an honest player" and stressed he has no prior rap sheet.
"He's been huge for us, does a lot of grunt work, the heavy lifting and he plays the game pretty hard," said Brian Boyle. "He's always done it the right way and he's not a dirty player by any means. He's done a lot for us, standing up to guys a lot bigger and heavier."
Volchenkov lobbied for a suspension, but he was none the worse for wear Sunday. With no penalty called on the play, the Rangers were quick to echo their coach's comments about how bad flopping looks at this time of year, if indeed any Devils are trying to play dead.
"Most hockey players don't dive," said Brad Richards of the Rangers. "Any team I've played on, most players don't lay on the ice. You see it a couple of times, it gets weeded out and talked about. I don't believe hockey players have that intent, but there are always exceptions, guys who have reputations who dive for sure. For the most part, we like to keep the integrity of the game."
Prust has 181 penalty minutes in the regular season and playoffs this year, but does not believe one was assessed for elbowing. He was satisfied he'd laid out a sound defence of his actions at Sunday's hearing.
"I was skating over there for a routine check and just wanted to rub him out before the end of a shift," Prust said. "He just kind of bailed out of it, turned and kind of went low. I didn't want to do a face plant into the boards. It was just a reaction, I didn't want to hit him in the head. There was nothing vicious about it.
"I've played a lot of professional hockey and never been suspended. I didn't feel I elbowed him after I went to the bench, I thought maybe I'd caught him with my knee, maybe a charley horse or something. I didn't hit him that hard, I just think I grazed his helmet a bit and it slid up. And it's natural if your helmet comes up, you try and sell it for a power play."
If embellishing was Volchenkov's intent, Boyle was certainly unimpressed.
"We get hit hard in playoffs, you don't want to give, you don't want to fall, you don't want to budge. If you do, you get up and if (the other guy) has the puck the next time, you try and go through him. For the most part, that's how hockey is played."