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Saturday, December 7, 2013
Updated: December 8, 7:02 PM ET
Pens' Brooks Orpik out of hospital

By Joe McDonald
ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik was released from the hospital and was traveling back to Pittsburgh with the team after leaving Saturday night's game on a stretcher.

Orpik was pulled to the ice and punched twice in the head by the Boston Bruins' Shawn Thornton in a crowd of players and officials during a stoppage in play at 11:06 of the first period of the Bruins' 3-2 win at TD Garden.

Thornton, dressed in a suit and speaking quietly in front of his locker after the game, said he was sorry for what happened.

"It's hard for me to talk about right now. I can't say I'm sorry enough. I'm sure I'll be criticized, but it's true," he said. "I felt awful. It wasn't my intention. I know Brooksie. I've gotten to know him the last seven years here. I skated with him during the lockout. I texted him a couple of times. It's not what I wanted to see or anyone to see."

Thornton was handed a match penalty and has been told he faces a disciplinary hearing.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma believes Orpik could be concussed.

"I think he was out on the ice for a period of time, so I think that means he's got a concussion, for sure," he said.

This rematch of last season's Eastern Conference finals -- which the Bruins swept in four games -- was a physical game from the opening puck drop. On the first shift of the game, Orpik knocked the Bruins' Loui Eriksson from the game with a major check.

Eriksson had trouble getting to his feet, but made it to the bench before being taken to the locker room. He did not return to the game and the Bruins announced later that he had a concussion, his second in a five-week span.

Chris Kelly was also hurt, suffering an injury on a slash. Neither Eriksson nor Kelly will travel with the team on its upcoming four-game road trip.

After Eriksson left, Thornton attempted to fight Orpik, but the Pittsburgh defenseman did not oblige. Thornton was given two minutes for roughing.

The physical battle continued as the Bruins' Milan Lucic and Pittsburgh's Deryk Engelland dropped the gloves at 7:19 of the first period.

Brooks Orpik
Pittsburgh's Brooks Orpik was released from the hospital and cleared to travel with the team after leaving Saturday's game on a stretcher.

With the game tied 1-1, the Bruins' Brad Marchand was on the ice as the Penguins' James Neal skated by and appeared to intentionally knee Marchand in the head. As Marchand lay on the ice, play was stopped as he was tended to by a trainer.

Thornton then skated toward Orpik, grabbed him and threw him to the ice before he started to punch him.

Orpik's eyes were open but he was clearly out of it as he was tended to by trainers from both teams and a Bruins team doctor. After nearly 10 minutes, Orpik was taken off the ice on a stretcher.

When asked if he had an opinion on being kneed in the head by Neal, all Marchand said was: "No."

After the game it was announced that Neal will have a discipline hearing.

Incidentally, Bruins coach Claude Julien spoke at length after the team's morning skate in general about teams retaliating after clean hits.

After the game, Julien said he'd let the league look into it.

"As much as I would like to give my opinion, I don't think it's a wise thing to do right now," he said. "You've got to let [the league] take care of it. I think [the Orpik hit on Eriksson] is where it all started, obviously, and it kind of escalated to a point where I don't think anybody's proud of what's happened in this first period -- on both sides -- I would hope.

"It's a real unfortunate situation. The only thing I'm going to say is not let's look one way here. There's a lot of blame to go around and we all have to take responsibility for that."

Bylsma had no problems with the hit on Eriksson.

"I think the hit by Orpik is a good hockey hit," he said. "Eriksson touches the puck, the puck's coming around the wall there, it does take a strange bounce, he does touch the puck, and it's a good hit. Clearly they took exception to it. They put people on the ice to take exception to it, and the events that ensued, you saw Thornton."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.