As he spoke to reporters on Friday, Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Erik Karlsson seemed conflicted exactly how much Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke was to blame for his season-ending injury.
Karlsson, 22, needed surgery to after Cooke’s skate sliced his Achilles tendon and Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray doesn’t expect him to return in 2013.
“He knows exactly what he’s doing out there,” Karlsson said, according to Sportsnet’s Ian Mendes. “And that’s why I’m sitting here in a cast.”
And yet, Karlsson pulled back from saying that Cooke’s actions were entirely intentional, “I don’t think he did it on purpose … He meant to hit me hard and knock me out.”
Karlsson added: “I don’t think his intention was to cut me with his skate. I refuse to believe that anyone would do that.”
Senators owner Eugene Melnyk was “outraged” over the incident and while Cooke wasn’t punished by the NHL, Melnyk wants him booted from the league.
For his part, Cooke called it “a freak, unfortunate accident” and reached out to Karlsson via a text message.
Karlsson didn’t reply. “We have nothing to say to each other.”
The Senators defenseman added that this isn’t the first time Cooke has gone after him, according to the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch.
“At least he reached out which I didn’t expect,” Karlsson added. “We’re going to leave it at that.”
Video: Karlsson needs help off ice after collision with Cooke
Don Cherry: Penguins’ Cooke didn’t try to injure Senators’ Karlsson
Cooke on Karlsson hit: ‘I didn’t even know what happened’
From the NHL:
Pretty veteran crew, including three returnees from last year’s final.
Per the NHL, O’Halloran and O’Rourke will call tonight’s series opener from Consol.
PITTSBURGH — When Pete DeBoer was hired to coach the San Jose Sharks, he wasn’t totally cognizant of how much heartbreak the fan base had experienced throughout the years.
Now he knows.
“First year in the community, I didn’t realize kind of the baggage that was carried around,” DeBoer said this morning ahead of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. “Twenty-five-year season-ticket holders coming up to you with tears in their eyes and crying.”
The Sharks, of course, have never been this far in the playoffs. Prior to this year, they’d made it three times to the Western Conference Final, losing each time.
More painful were the first-round exits. Like in 2009 when they won the Presidents’ Trophy and got knocked out by the Ducks, and two years ago when they led the Kings 3-0 before dropping four straight.
It was only after the Sharks beat the Blues that DeBoer fully realized the “gravity of what they’ve been through” as fans in San Jose, and “how important this is to them.”
Not that he’s satisfied with getting this far.
“The business at hand now is to get off on the right foot, plant the right seeds for this series, impose our game,” he said. “Every series is the same — it’s whatever team can impose their game on the other team the quickest and for the longest. That’s our goal here tonight.”
Related: For Pete DeBoer, San Jose was the perfect landing spot
Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar will spend part of his offseason trying to help Slovenia qualify for the Olympics.
RTV Slovenia has the story here.
The qualification games will be played September 1-4 in Minsk. Slovenia is in a group with Belarus, Denmark and Poland. The winner of the group will qualify for the Olympics.
The NHL reportedly has no issue with Kopitar’s participation, even though the league has yet to commit to sending its players to Pyeongchang.
Slovenia made its Olympic debut in ice hockey at the 2014 Games in Sochi.
Kopitar will also represent Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup later in September.
Related: Slovenia beats Slovakia for historic win
PITTSBURGH — Matt Nieto is healthy, and ready to go.
But it doesn’t look like he’ll go tonight.
The San Jose Sharks are unlikely to make any lineup changes for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Pittsburgh — at Monday’s optional morning skate, Nieto stayed out late with the extras while the guy he’d (presumably) replace in the lineup, Dainius Zubrus, told NHL.com he was in.
Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer wouldn’t reveal any lineup decisions during his morning media availability, instead talking up both Nieto (for his speed) and Zubrus (for his “heavy” game), adding he liked the versatility the two give the club on a night-by-night basis.
Nieto suffered an upper-body injury in Game 6 of the Nashville series, and missed all of the Western Conference Final.
Prior to getting hurt, he had three points in 11 games — this after a regular season in which he scored eight goals and 17 points in 67 games.