Milan Lucic pledges to continue to defend Flames teammates after suspension

Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving comments on the two-game suspension handed down to Milan Lucic.

Most NHL players react to their suspensions with a brief, pre-rehearsed statement that either includes a hint of remorse or respectfully disagreeing with the ruling.

Some include both.

Not Milan Lucic.

On Tuesday the hulking Flames winger approached the two-game sentence handed down by the league on Sunday the same way he approached Kole Sherwood Saturday night:

Straightforward.

"It’s a schoolyard out there," said Lucic, making his first comments since the ban. "You’ve got to defend your teammates or you kind of get walked over.

"It was pretty clear the guy slashes or spears (Flames goalie David Rittich) and I was just standing up for him. I’m more than willing to do that.

"I’m more than happy to defend Ritter on that play and more than happy to defend (Austin) Czarnik the first game of the year and will do that moving forward. This suspension won’t change that."

It’s the sort of mindset his teammates are happy to hear, and the type of attitude that prompted GM Brad Treliving to bring Lucic in for James Neal this summer.

As one of the last true heavyweights left in a league built around youth and speed, the 31-year-old forward is here to deter the opposition from taking liberties by creating a reign of terror aimed at allowing others to play without worry.

He did that Saturday by responding immediately to a late, unnecessary slash on Rittich’s pad by hunting the rookie down and immediately punching him in the face without warning.

The kid dropped, as did Lucic’s bank account by $64,516.

"I know (the league’s) explanation video showed a number of things — of all these things, they were all reactions to a dirty play to begin with," said Lucic, who was handed a double minor for roughing on the play, which is where he thought the incident should have been put to rest.

"I thought the referees got it right on the ice the first time. They even got a slashing penalty on the play, and the powerplay. Ritter said it was the second time he got slashed in the last three games."

Treliving stood up for his player by saying he "vehemently disagreed" with the suspension.

He said every team in the league would respond to the slash with fury.

As every team should.

However, it was the manner in which Lucic reacted that clearly crossed the line and prompted supplemental discipline.

Simply put, you can’t punch opponents in the face or head who aren’t in a position to defend themselves.

Lucic has been fined and suspended for it on two previous occasions and was lucky the league choose not to fine him opening night for an unprovoked punch to the face of Nikita Zadorov.

As he continued his reaction, Lucic reluctantly admitted he was perhaps a tad heavy-handed, but only by today’s NHL standards.

"I guess that might be the play moving forward, is going a little lighter," he smiled. "I know from my standpoint you go hard into a scrum like that because you expect guys to take care of themselves.

"When you watch a boxing match – I’m not saying hockey is boxing – but one of the things the referee says is, ‘when you’re in the ring protect yourself at all times.’

"I think it’s the same thing when you’re on the ice. I think (Sherwood) said in the media afterwards that he expects a reaction like that when he slashes a goalie."

He went on to add, "Funny, even in the first game of the year Zadorov is kind of looking at the referee to defend him, in a sense. I was brought up in an age where you protect yourself at all times. Maybe moving forward you can expect that from guys, to maybe not to be ready for it. So, maybe go a little lighter on them. It’s hard to when it’s not your nature."

What isn’t hard is realizing the league won’t tolerate head shots of any kind, nor is it happy to have to address a player for repeatedly crossing the same line.

Had this been his first offence, no suspension would have been levied.

Alas, the video explains clearly his status as a repeat offender prompted the sit-down.

"I think the main thing is just try to avoid the head," said Lucic, who will serve the second game of his sentence Tuesday when the Flames host Arizona.

"I know some people like to write ‘sucker punch.’ I mean, look up the definition of a sucker punch – my arm didn’t cock back or anything. It was more of a forearm shiver that ran up into his head. We can go find videos of real sucker punches and compare then to that one. Just try to avoid the head moving forward and go from there."

Good idea.

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