Tampa Bay Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier on Bruins D Zdeno Chara: "He's not a dirty player"
Tampa Bay Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier was careful to say no one really know what was going through the mind of Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara during the moment he threw the check on Montreal's Max Pacioretty that resulted in such devastating consequences. But Lecavalier said Chara, as far as he knows him, is not a dirty player.
There has been some speculation Chara intentionally checked Pacioretty into the padded stanchion at the Bell Centre. The hit gave Pacioretty a concussion and a fractured vertebrae. Chara was kicked out of the game but the league declined supplemental discipline because it was determined the injury was the result of a hockey play that went bad. But some have speculated Chara pushed Pacioretty, with whom he had tangled previously, into the stanchion deliberately.
How does Lecavalier fit in? He fought Chara in (corrected) April 2006. The 6-foot-9, 260-pound Chara had Lecavalier down with fist cocked but held up from throwing another punch.
"I don't think he's a guy who tries to hurt guys," Lecavalier said. "He plays hard on them. He finishes his checks. But he's actually a pretty honest, clean player."
Lecavalier said, "You don't know what can happen in that one second, what he was thinking. I guess nobody will except for him."
But in Lecavalier's experience, Chara gets the benefit of the doubt.
"He plays really strong," Lecavalier said. "You get grabbed by him, you're going pretty hard into the boards. But he's not a dirty player. He's not sucker punching other guys. I don't think he's a guy who would do that at all. I think he plays pretty fair. He plays really hard, but he plays fair."
Other stuff from the morning skate: Interesting goaltender for the Senators tonight, Curtis McElhinney, who makes his Ottawa debut. McElhinney, you may recall, was what Tampa Bay got back from the Ducks in the Dan Ellis deal. That trade was basically a salary dump, and McElhinney was never in the Lightning's plans. He was immediately put on waivers and claimed by the Senators. ... Some news you might have missed from today's paper. AHL Norfolk goaltender Cedrick Desjardins has been cleared to play," general manager Steve Yzerman said. Desjardins, who was so impressive in Lightning victories Dec. 30 and Jan. 1, has been out since Jan. 16 with a right shoulder injury. Desjardins has been rehabbing to avoid surgery. ... Lightning coach Guy Boucher said he was not surprised defenseman Pavel Kubina was suspended three games for his elbow to the head of Chicago's Dave Bolland. "It's nothing to get in an outrage about, no," Boucher said of the length of the suspension. In the silver lining department, Boucher said the suspension actually gives Kubina a chance to heal from a bothersome groin strain. "He was pushing injured. Now, it's going to give him a chance to rest," Boucher said. ... In more injury news, Steve Downie (knee/ankle) likely won't skate till next week, Boucher said. ... Dwayne Roloson gets the start in net tonight. Mike Smith will play Saturday at Florida, Boucher said. ... Tampa Bay will go with seven defensemen tonight against the Senators with Boucher saying Mike Lundin, who played just 10 minutes Wednesday against the Blackhawks in his first game back after missing 13 with an abdominal injury, probably will play closer to his normal 20. "Last game got him in shape pretty good, so he's fine." ... Lots of love for Blair Jones this morning. Boucher said the center, in his third call-up this season from Norfolk, has been better able to keep his game at a consistent level. The problem in the past, Boucher said, was that by his third or fourth game, Blair's game had deteriorated. "He's clearly the best two-way player down there," Boucher said. "What I like about his game is he's very consistent in his defensive game. And when he has the puck he doesn't give it away, and his forecheck is extremely intense." Jones said his consistency comes from acknowledging his role. "I've kind of gotten used to knowing I'm not going to be playing heavy minutes like I'm used to in the American League," he said. "It's going to take a little bit different ways to stay in the game, whether it's talking on the bench or getting a real good warm-up before the game. I just have to do different things to stay in it." ... With Lundin back, Boucher has to make some determinations about how to use him. It all comes down to the opponent, Boucher said. Opponents with quicker first lines dictate a combo of Lundin and Eric Brewer. Teams with first lines which are more grinding (and slower) will see Lundin and Mattias Ohlund. "Ohlund does much better when he plays against teams that are bigger and physical," Boucher said. "Ohlund fits better in that context." Brewer, he said, fits both profiles. "He's got the speed, size and grit to play against any line, that's for sure." ... Expect to see a lot of Roloson down the stretch. Boucher didn't seem worried about stressing the 41-year-old's body. "He's so in shape," Boucher said. "He's a machine, pure and simple." Besides, the coach added, "If Roloson is our No.1, he has to have the role of a No. 1. If we don't make the playoffs because we don't play him enough, we're not better off. We have to play him as much as we can, but stay smart." Boucher said that means limiting his practice time more than his game time. "We have to manage him," Boucher said. "He works so hard and wants it so bad."