BOSTON – To no one’s surprise, the Montreal Canadiens locker room was filled with several media members from both teams after their morning skate at TD Garden.
To very little surprise, the Habs locker room is looking for something more important other than revenge on Zdeno Chara; two points.
“I expect a tight, checking, game,” Habs coach Jacques Martin said, who’s team trails by three points in the Northeast division standings. “Both teams have strong goaltending. Both teams are in the top 10 in terms of goals against and we’re in a battle for first place in the division – we trail them – and this is the last meeting between the two teams in the regular season, so this is a good opportunity for us to hopefully gain some ground. The two points are huge.”
Make no mistake about it, the last chapter of the rivalry was written when Chara shoved Habs forward Max Pacioretty into the turnbuckle between the two benches the last time the two teams met at the Bell Centre, which resulted in a 4-1 win for Montreal. Although there were some – particularly from the Montreal fans and media – who expected the 6-foot-9 defenseman to be disciplined afterwards, the league obviously decided that there was no need to suspend Chara after the hit, even though Pacioretty suffered a Grade 2 concussion and a fractured vertebra.
The aftermath of the announcement got very ugly up in Montreal, where Chara is now being investigated (still) by the Montreal police after several phone calls from Habs fans, and one of the leagues sponsors, Air Canada, threatened to pull out of their deal.
At practice yesterday, Chara, who was pleased to hear that Pacioretty was doing well in his recovery, spoke to the media about his attempts to reach out to him.
“Obviously I’m glad that he’s doing much better and he’s probably going to be playing [again] based on the reports we heard,” Chara said. “I’m glad he’s going to be fine. That’s good news.
“I made a few attempts to reach out to him, but so far nothing.”
But afterwards, things got a bit interesting when Mark Recchi was a guest on Felger and Mazz, the afternoon drive time show on 98.5 the sports hub. His comments suggested that the Habs and Pacioretty “embellished” the extent of the injury.
“There’s an injury – he does have, obviously, a fractured vertebra, but the concussion was really a non factor. Maybe for a day or two he felt it, and he was fine a couple days later,” Recchi said yesterday on 98.5.
“I believe, yeah, that they were trying to get Zdeno suspended and they embellished it a little bit. I guess they were trying to do what they could to get him suspended. I think the league sent the message that it was a hockey play, and that’s the most important thing that people have to understand. We all know it was an accident and that’s the bottom line.”
Although a couple of members from the Habs – defenseman Hal Gil and Martin – decided not to respond to Recchi’s remarks yesterday, there were some who made a few comments about the claim, like defenseman Paul Mara and forwards Mathieu Darche and Jeff Halpren, just to name a few.
“How can you question a player who has been knocked out for three to four minutes with a broken vertebra,” Mara said. “How do you question the integrity of a hockey team and that we’re embellishing it? It is really questionable coming from a guy…who has been around the league for so long. He’s entitled to his opinion and we’re entitled to ours, but in Montreal we really know the truth.”
“You never want to question anyone’s injury whether he’s on your team or another team,” Halpren said. “I have a ton of respect for Rex [Recchi], he’s a good friend of mine, but I think the significance of Patches [Pacioretty] as a team is important and its hard to mistake that.
“As far as the concussion…I’ve had a concussion before and you do whatever you want to do to make yourself feel better,” Halpren added. “Your living in a fog for that time – whether its headaches or dizziness – and you do what you can to feel better. It’s a global process, if he wanted to go to a movie that’s his decision. He was out cold on the ice and I don’t think you can question those type of things.”
Even with all the activity surrounding this rivalry, Martin doesn’t see his team getting caught in the distractions.
“I don’t think that’s a problem [for our team],” he said. “I think they know the importance of the hockey game.”