Montreal Canadiens forward Brandon Prust responded to Ottawa Senators head coach Paul MacLean’s comments on the Eric Gryba hit on Lars Eller Friday by saying, “We don’t care what that bug-eyed fat walrus has to say.”
Following Gryba’s crushing hit on Eller — which resulted in a two-game suspension handed out by the NHL — Paul MacLean defended his player and put the onus on Habs blue-liner Raphael Diaz, who MacLean argued left Eller vulnerable after a dangerous pass.
“(If I’m Eller), I’m really mad at player 61, whoever he is, because he passed me the puck in the middle of the rink when I wasn’t looking,” MacLean said Thursday after the Senators 4-2 win over the Canadiens in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
“That’s always been a dangerous place as far as I know. Ever since I’ve been playing this game, that’s a dangerous place to be — bad things happen.
“I think it’s a hockey play that ended up going badly for Lars Eller.”
Despite the majority of hockey pundits believing it was a clean hit with an unfortunate result, Prust and the Canadiens (and the league) thought otherwise.
“I mean (Eller’s) got a broken face, so it’s a dirty hit,” Prust said.
Gryba had a disciplinary hearing with the NHL Friday afternoon to review the play.
“I trust — actually trust is a big word — I hope the league makes the right decision,” Prust said be fore adding, “You know what, actually I hope he doesn’t end up getting suspended.”
After Thursday’s game, Gryba – who was assessed a five-minute major penalty for interference and a game misconduct – wished Eller well and shared his perspective on the play.
“I stepped up to make a hit. I kept my shoulder down. He received the puck by the time I hit him,” Gryba said. “I saw the replay. My elbow was down and there was no intent to hurt him whatsoever and I hope that he’s okay. I’m not out here to hurt anybody and it’s never good to seeing anything like that. I hope he makes a full and speedy recovery.”
Eller, who lost consciousness on the hit, was removed from the ice on a stretcher and taken to hospital where he was treated for facial and dental fractures. The 23-year-old was home resting Friday and will not be in the lineup for Game 2 and there is no word yet on how long the Dane will be out of action.
The teams meet for a second consecutive night Friday at the Bell Centre in Montreal and tensions could be high after the comments from MacLean and Prust’s retort.
Like Prust, Canadiens coach Michel Therrien thought MacLean’s comments were disrespectful.
“I’m not going to comment on that hit, but one thing I could do though is comment on MacLean’s comment,” Therrien said after practice Friday. “Inappropriate comment. No respect for the player on the ice, who was bleeding; no respect for his family in the stands.”
“When he compared it to a hockey hit, the (comparison) that he did it was in the 70s, 80s and 90s and this is why we got new rules to avoid those hits,” Therrien added. “When a player is vulnerable, that’s why we’ve got rules. That was a lack of respect to Lars Eller, a lack of respect to his family and I’m never going to accept that.”
One more reason for the Habs to be upset with the Senators, besides being down 1-0 in the best-of-seven series, is the front page of Friday’s Ottawa Sun:
NOTES: The Canadiens announced forwards Brian Gionta and Max Pacioretty will miss Game 2 with upper-body injuries.