Hit on Van Ryn fires up Leafs

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:41 AM ET

Tom Kostopoulos insisted he is not a dirty player.

But the Montreal Canadiens forward didn't have the video evidence to back up that claim last night.

Kostopoulos sent Maple Leafs defenceman Mike Van Ryn to the hospital with a concussion, broken nose and broken left hand after crushing Van Ryn from behind into the end boards during the first period.

"It was definitely an accident," Kostopoulos said. "I was just trying to get in on the forecheck and get the puck. I didn't anticipate him turning and I couldn't stop myself.

"I know in my head I was not trying to hurt him. I feel bad. I don't think I play dirty."

Naturally, several Leafs players think Kostopoulos, who led the Canadiens last season with 113 penalty minutes and often has hit 100 penalty minutes a season since breaking into the Ontario Hockey League with the London Knights in 1996-97, should be suspended by the NHL.

"For sure," defenceman Pavel Kubina said. "That should not be in the game, a hit like that. We're just hoping he is going to be okay."

Centre Matt Stajan agreed.

"If (Kostopoulos) goes for the puck, he can steal it and go to the net," Stajan said. "Instead he goes for the guy's head. Hopefully the league takes a close look at it because it's part of the game that's not needed and we see way too much of it."

Of course, the Leafs have seen plenty of it already, though the transgressions have been carried out by one of their teammates, Ryan Hollweg. Already, Hollweg, who has been a healthy scratch the past four games, has twice been suspended since becoming a Leaf.

Stajan and Kostopoulos both are natives of Mississauga, and though Kostopoulos is four years older than Stajan, they've crossed paths off the ice.

"I am sure he is regretting it," Stajan said. "I know him a bit and he is a great guy, but it is something he can't do and I am sure he will learn his lesson."

Kostopoulos, who has a goal and an assist in 11 games this season, said he was going to try to get a hold of Van Ryn on the telephone.

"I was trying to finish my check and it did not end up well," Kostopoulos said. "I hope he is going to be all right."


Photos