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Pens take notice of vicious hits this season

Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2009

Players exiting hockey games on stretchers has become commonplace during the early stages of the 2009-10 hockey season.

Dating to the final two weeks of the NHL preseason, Colorado forward Darcy Tucker, New York Islanders forward Kyle Okposo, Columbus forward Jason Chimera and Florida forward David Booth have all been removed by stretchers after enduring vicious hits.

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby sounded concerned following Monday's practice at Mellon Arena.

"Nobody likes to see that," Crosby said.

The talk of the locker room yesterday was a hit Philadelphia captain Mike Richards leveled on Booth on Saturday. Although the NHL has already ruled that Richards won't be suspended, many around hockey believe the hit was ill-intended.

Richards caught Booth with his head down and torpedoed his left shoulder into his chin. Booth, who was knocked unconscious briefly, was released Sunday from a Philadelphia hospital.

"It's tough," Crosby said. "That is a clean hit if you're judging by the rulebook."

But ...

"At the same time, I think there has to be a level of respect. When a guy has no idea he is going to be hit like that, it is tough to see that. By the rules it's not a dirty hit, but at the same time the guy might not know it's coming so you might want to let up."

Some of the Penguins believed the hit was fine, while others believed it unnecessary. The Penguins, of course, have a prickly relationship with Richards. Earlier this season, Richards recklessly barreled over goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in the final seconds of a 5-4 Penguins win.

This incident sparked an altercation in which Flyers left wing Scott Hartnell allegedly bit defenseman Kris Letang's finger.

Crosby didn't like that Richards appeared to target Booth's head.

"You are always facing danger when you cross the middle like that," Crosby said. "As a hockey player, everyone realizes that, but at the same time, it is still the head."

The Penguins were involved in a smaller incident over the weekend.

Penguins center Mike Rupp was given a two-minute boarding penalty for hitting former teammate Jay Pandolfo from behind. The New Jersey winger wore a sling on his right arm following the game and is believed to be suffering from either a separated or dislocated shoulder.

Following Saturday's game, Pandolfo said he was surprised that Rupp would take an unnecessary shot at him.

Rupp spoke with his former teammate before the Devils' bus departed for the airport.

"I told him I was really sorry," Rupp said. "It was not my intention to hurt him. I even eased up a little."

If the situation presented itself again, however, Rupp wouldn't have changed his approach.

"It's hockey," he said. "I didn't do anything dirty. I totally sympathize with what he's going through. I didn't mean to hurt anyone. But I think he knows and I think that organization knows that I'm not a dirty hockey player."




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