- Katie Strang, ESPN.com
- 0 Shares
NEW YORK -- New York Rangers tough guy Brandon Prust received a one-game suspension Sunday for his elbow on New Jersey Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov in the Rangers' 3-0 win against the Devils in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals Saturday.
This is the first ban for Prust, who leads the league with 20 fighting majors.
The 28-year-old winger, who had a telephone hearing with NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan on Sunday morning, told reporters after practice 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 went low. 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."
Volchenkov stayed down on the ice for a bit before going to the bench. He was uninjured and didn't miss a shift. No penalty was called on the play.
The punishment wasn't more severe because Volchenkov didn't sustain an injury, and Prust has no history of supplemental discipline.
However, Shanahan called the elbow "reckless" and added that Prust flared his elbow to hit Volchenkov, in a video explanation that accompanied the announcement of the suspension.
When asked whether he thought Volchenkov stayed down on the ice to embellish the hit and earn a call -- as Rangers coach John Tortorella asserted in his Sunday press 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. It's just natural. You're going to try to sell it for a power-play."
Prust, according to Elias Sports Bureau, has been assessed only two elbowing penalties in his entire 301-game NHL career.
Devils coach Peter DeBoer was livid about the incident following his team's loss. 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 a 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 change needed with Prust out. Injured forward Brandon Dubinsky (right foot) skated fully with the team for the first time since sustaining an injury in Game 7 of the quarterfinals against the Ottawa Senators, but does not appear to be ready quite yet. The Rangers will likely use either defensemen Stu Bickel or Steve Eminger as a forward in Prust's absence.
This is the 13th suspension handed down by Shanahan since the start of the playoffs, and the second levied against a Rangers player. Rookie forward Carl Hagelin was given a three-game ban in the first round for elbowing Daniel Alfredsson in the head that caused the Senators captain to sustain a concussion and miss three games of the seven-game series.
New York leads 2-1 in the series that continues with Game 4 in New Jersey on Monday night.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.