MONTREAL — Not even a concussion could dull Victor Hedman's sense of humor.
Asked Friday about the difference between playing in North America and Europe, the Lightning's rookie defenseman and Swedish native talked about the quicker NHL game and making faster decisions. "And," he deadpanned, "keep your head up."
Hedman's was down late in the second period Thursday when Ottawa's Chris Neil delivered a ferocious hit that knocked him out of the game and will force him to miss at least tonight's with the Canadiens at the Bell Centre.
It is unclear whether Hedman, second on the team with an average 24 minutes of ice time, will be ready for Thursday's home game with the Wild. Coach Rick Tocchet said Kurtis Foster, a healthy scratch the past three games, will play against Montreal.
"You have to be very careful," Tocchet said of concussions. "You have to be sure. Lucky that's his first one. Hopefully, it's mild."
Hedman, 18, this year's No. 2 overall draft pick, said he hadn't seen a replay of the hit that occurred while he reached for a puck behind his net but had been told it was clean. He gave that assessment credence when he said Neil hit him in the chest before either Neil's elbow or shoulder (replays were vague) rode up and hit him in the jaw.
Hedman said he never saw Neil coming because he was screened by goaltender Antero Niittymaki, who left his net to hold up the puck: "I didn't see it at all. Niitty stopped the puck, and I was trying to get it to (defenseman Mattias Ohlund). It was a big hit. … It was a clean hit."
If left him crumpled on the ice and caused teammate Steve Downie to fight Neil.
Hedman said he was shaky and headachy after the hit but that it could have been worse had he not worn a mouth guard. He also said he had no residual effects, though he did not practice or work out Friday. Still, the debate was on in the Bell Centre locker room.
Center Zenon Konopka, who said Thursday that the league should punish Neil, said his opinion had not changed. He said Neil, not penalized on the play, should have at least been called for charging. "He didn't even try to play the puck," Konopka said. "He came from the blue line, and (Hedman) was in a vulnerable position. He has to use some common sense."
As for possible repercussions, the league declined to comment.
"When I said repercussions, it doesn't need to come from the league," Konopka said. "(The Senators) have to come to Tampa one more time," April 8.
Left wing Ryan Malone said he had fewer problems with the check because Neil hit from the front and apparently did not go directly for the head. "You don't want to see this happen," Malone said, "but I thought it was okay."
"I can understand both sides of it," Tocchet said. "I've seen hits a lot less than that (get) a fine or a suspension, so it's a tough call. I have a tough time giving an opinion either way. It's one of those things. It was a perfect storm for that to happen."
Hedman still had a good Friday as he watched Tampa Bay's practice with Sweden's national junior team, in town to train for the world championships.
"He was smiling," Tocchet said. "He's always smiling. He's such a good kid. Even when he makes a mistake, nothing affects him. It's infectious about him."
A sense of humor will do that.