- Katie Strang, ESPN.com
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NEW YORK -- Not much more than an hour after a phone hearing with NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan over his elbow on New Jersey's Anton Volchenkov in Game 3, Rangers tough guy Brandon Prust responded to accusations by Devils coach Peter DeBoer that he was targeting the Devils defenseman's head.
"I'm not too worried about what he has to say," Prust said. "He's not my coach."
Prust, who will likely be suspended for the hit that left Volchenkov shaken up during the second period of the Rangers' 3-0 win, reiterated that his intent was not to hurt the 30-year-old Russian.
"I was trying to rub him out and get off the ice. He bailed on it a bit, turned and kind of went rolling. It's just kind of a reaction when you're off-balance and your arms go up. I didn't want to do a faceplant into the boards," Prust said. "It was just kind of a reaction. I had no intent to hit him in the head there. There was nothing vicious about it."
When asked whether he thought Volchenkov stayed down on the ice to embellish the hit and earn a call -- as coach John Tortorella asserted in his Sunday news conference earlier that morning -- Prust said:
"I didn't really hit him that hard, I just kind of grazed his helmet and got his helmet a little bit and it slid up and for sure you're trying to get a penalty when you're helmet comes off," he said. "It's just natural. You're going to try to sell it for a power play."
Prust received no penalty on the play and, according to Elias Sports Bureau, has been assessed only two elbowing penalties in his entire 301-game NHL career. The 28-year-old bruiser has also never had a hearing with the NHL's Department of Player Safety, a clean record he hopes will weigh in his favor.
"I have no clue, really. I've played a lot of professional hockey games and I've never been suspended before," he said. "I don't even think I've had an elbowing penalty this year so I'm sure they will take that into account."
DeBoer clearly hopes otherwise. When asked after the game about the hit, which left Volchenkov shaken up, he said:
"Head-hunting. Plain and simple."
Both Prust's teammates and coach took offense to such characterization.
"I think calling Prust a head-hunter is a little unnecessary," said alternate captain Marc Staal. "I think he's a pretty honest player and has been his whole career."
Tortorella, who unleashed a tirade about the Devils once asked to comment about DeBoer's remarks, defended Prust as well.
"Prust has played probably 300-plus games without any hearing, anything going on with him. He's probably one of the most honest players," he said.
Tortorella also declined to speculate about the lineup changes a suspension would necessitate. Injured forward Brandon Dubinsky (right
foot) skated fully with the team for the first time since sustaining the injury in Game 7 of the quarterfinals against Ottawa, but does not appear to be ready quite yet. The Rangers would likely use either defensemen Stu Bickel or Steve Eminger as a forward in Prust's absence.
"I don't know what I'm going to (do) with the lineup," he 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."
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