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Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman has concussion, says hit from Neil was clean



Tampa Bay Lightning rookie defenseman Victor Hedman will not play in Saturday's game with the Canadiens because of a concussion sustained in Thursday's game with the Senators on a brutal hit by Ottawa's Chris Neil.

Hedman's next chance to play will be Thursday at home against the Wild, but coach Rick Tocchet said he could not say for sure if Hedman will be ready, and that the team will be very cautious.

"Back in the day you'd throw water on your back and go out," Tocchet said. "But now, with those lingering effects you just have to be very careful. You got to make sure. Lucky that's his first one, and hopefully it's just a mild concussion. It's one of those things you've got to go through the whole process and when they say he's ready, we'll play him."

Tocchet said Kurtis Foster, scratched the past three games, will take Hedman's place against the Canadiens.

Hedman, 18, did not practice Friday, sitting in the Bell Centre stands with members of Sweden's junior national team that is in town preparing for the world championships. Hedman also was smiling and jokey when talking to reporters and even joked about keeping his head up from now on when he tries to field pucks behind the net.

He also said he believes the hit was clean. He said Neil caught him in the chest with his arms, and only hit Hedman in the jaw with his forearm or elbow as Neil's body rode up Hedman's. He said he had a headache after the hit but had no residual effects on Friday.

"I feel good, very good," Hedman said. "It was a big hit. it was a clean hit. ... I was trying to pass the puck to (defensive partner Mattias Ohlund). I tried to reach for it and he just came and run over me. I was a little shaky there, so day to day, you can't rush things just take it slow."

Opinions, however, were still divided in the locker room over if the hit was clean.

Center Zenon Konopka, who was adamant Thursday the hit was dirty, reiterated that on Friday.

"He didn't even try to play the puck," Konopka said. "And he came from the blue line and (Hedman) is in a vulnerable position. He (Neil) has to use common sense."

Konopka called Thursday for Neil to be fined or suspended by the league. He clarified that Friday, saying, "When I said there should be repercussions, it doesn't need to come from the league. They have to come into Tampa one more time," on April 8.

But left wing Ryan Malone said he had less problem with the check because Neil hit from the front and did not go for the head.

"You don't want to see this happen," Malone said, "but I thought it was okay."

"It's one of those things," Tocchet said. "I can understand both sides of it. Sometimes I've seen some hits that are a lot less than that get a fine or suspension. It's a tough call. I have a tough time giving an opinion either way, I really do. It was one of those things it was a perfect storm for that to happen."

As forward Ryan Craig said, "It's a fine line. If Heddy doesn't get hurt, we're not talking about it."

"Well," Konopka said, "not as much."

Also, Tocchet said Antero Niittymaki will make his third straight start Saturday against the Canadiens.   

[Last modified: Sunday, December 6, 2009 12:15am]


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