Welcome to the spotlight, Joe Vitale.
A day after igniting a melee with his hit on Daniel Briere, the Pittsburgh forward became Public Enemy No. 1 in Philadelphia after it was learned Briere and another victim of a Vitale hit — Nicklas Grossmann — were knocked out of the Flyers lineup with injuries.
The 26-year-old checking forward discussed the Briere incident with Shelly Anderson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“I saw a white jersey coming up the ice,” Vitale explained. “I took the body on him. I didn’t know if it was Briere or whoever.
“I was playing my last shift like I play every shift…I didn’t know [it was Briere], and I really didn’t care.”
The fury surrounding the hit spilled over to the benches as Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette got into a screaming match with Pittsburgh assistant Tony Granato and head coach Dan Bylsma.
Laviolette continued fuming in his postgame presser.
“Those guys hadn’t been out there in 12 minutes,” Laviolette said, referring to Vitale and linemates Craig Adams and Arron Asham. “It’s a gutless move by their coach. It’s gutless.”
Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby had a different take on the incident.
“I’m sure [Laviolette] doesn’t like to see one of their top players getting hit,” he said. “Maybe he shouldn’t have put him out there.”
It’ll be interesting to see what transpires on Saturday as the Penguins and Flyers will meet again at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. Vitale might want to think about wearing some type of body armor.