Vitale Briere

Vitale on controversial hit: “I didn’t know [it was Briere], and I really didn’t care”


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.

Ducks name Kesler alternate captain

Ryan Kesler
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For the second time in his career, Ryan Kesler is wearing an “A.”

On Thursday, the Anaheim Ducks announced that Kesler would serve as one of the club’s alternate captains this season, taking over for Francois Beauchemin, who signed in Colorado this summer.

With the move, Kesler joins Anaheim’s existing leadership group of captain Ryan Getzlaf, and alternate Corey Perry.

“It’s an honor,” Kesler said, per the Ducks. “It’s special. I’m going to wear it with pride and lead by example.”

As mentioned earlier, Kesler has some experience as an alternate — he wore an “A” in Vancouver from 2008-13, but had it removed prior to the start of the ’13-14 campaign.

It’s not surprising Anaheim went in this direction. GM Bob Murray made a huge investment in Kesler this summer by inking the 31-year-old to a six-year, $41.25M extension.

Diaz could leave Rangers for Europe

Raphael Diaz, Mike Sislo
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Could Raphael Diaz be on his way back to Switzerland?

We’ll know in a month.

Diaz, who lost out on the Rangers’ final blueline spot in training camp, has reported to the club’s AHL affiliate in Hartford but doesn’t seem pleased with his current situation, per the Post:

The 29-year-old Diaz, who cleared waivers last Saturday after the Blueshirts opted to keep rookie Dylan McIlrath as the club’s seventh on the blue line, is interested in the European option if he is not in the NHL.

The Blueshirts have told Diaz they will revisit the situation at the end of October, but have not promised to release him or assign him to a European team at that point.

If Diaz, a Swiss native who represented Switzerland in the 2014 Olympics, does play in Europe during the season, he would have to go through waivers in order to return to the NHL.

Diaz’s agent, Ritch Winter, told the Post that Diaz signed a one-year, $700,000 deal with the Rangers “to play with the Rangers.”

And it’s understandable if Diaz — a journeyman offensive defenseman — isn’t happy with this situation.

While some believe McIlrath earned his roster spot on merit, some think it’s because of his contract status. McIlrath, who’s only 23 and a former first-round pick, would’ve needed to clear waivers to go back to Hartford, and it’s believed he would’ve been claimed by another club.