New York Rangers forward Brandon Prust was suspended one game Sunday by the NHL for his elbow to the head of Devils' Anton Volchenkov in Saturday's Game 3.
Prust had a telephone hearing with NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan to discuss the elbow he landed to the back of Volchenkov's helmet early in the second period of the Rangers' 3-0 win on Saturday. New York leads the series 2-1. Game 4 is in New Jersey on Monday night (8 p.m. ET on CBC, CBCSports.ca).
In a video explanation of the suspension, NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan said the punishment wasn't more severe because Volchenkov didn't sustain an injury, and Prust has no history of supplemental discipline.
But Shanahan called the elbow "reckless" and added that Prust flared his elbow to hit Volchenkov.
Earlier Sunday, Rangers coach John Tortorella hinted that some New Jersey players could have shared Prust's fate.
"Prust has played probably 300-plus games without any hearing, anything going on with him," Tortorella said following a team practice on Sunday. "He's probably one of the most honest players. I look at [the Devils’ Dainius] Zubrus's elbow to [Anton] Stralman. I look at [Zach] Parise launching himself at [Michael] Del Zotto. Maybe if our players stayed down on the ice, we'll get something.
"We tell our players don't stay down on the ice. Get up. I hope … I'll leave it at that."
Prust's hearing was scheduled for 11:30 a.m. ET on Sunday and he told reporters afterwards that he thought he explained his actions to the league well, saying there was no intent to injure and was it was more of a reactionary play.
"It's just kind of a reaction when you're off balance, your arms go up, I didn't want to go do a face plant in the boards," Prust said. "It's just kind of a reaction. I had no intent to hit [Volchenkov] in the head. There was nothing vicious about it."
Prust said he didn't even feel he elbowed Volchenkov.
"I went to the bench and I thought maybe I caught him with my knee, maybe [a] charley horse or something…I didn't hit him that hard," Prust said. "I just grazed his helmet, got his helmet a little bit and it slid up, and for sure he's trying to get a penalty when your helmet comes up. It's just natural. You're going to try and sell it for a power play."
As for a decision, Prust said he's not sure what’s to come but hoped his record is a factor in the decision.
"I know that I played a lot of professional hockey games [and have] never been suspended before," Prust said. "I don't even think I've had an elbowing penalty this year. So I'm sure they'll take that into account."
Tortorella said he hadn’t considered lineup changes in the event his forward would miss time.
"I don't know what I'm going to do with the lineup,” Tortorella said. "I don't think he should be suspended. So I really haven't gone that far, because I don't think he should be."
Teammate and sometimes linemate Brian Boyle says Prust isn’t the type of player to hit dirty, just hard.
"I think he does a lot of grunt work," Boyle said. "He does a lot of heavy lifting. And he's been hitting it really hard. He's really done it the right way, I think. Not a dirty player by any means.
"He's done a lot for us. He stands up to guys a lot bigger than him and heavier than him."
Ticked about the picks
The Rangers coach also criticized New Jersey for running screen plays to stop New York from getting in front of the puck carrier.
"Picking on the power play, set plays, picking on the power play," Tortorella said. "If we want to start discussing officials with the media, I have a long list here. That's a set play by Jersey, picking so we can't get to [Ilya] Kovalchuk to block a shot."
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