NEW YORK -- Montreal Canadiens forward Brandon Prust expressed remorse Saturday for hitting his former teammate on the New York Rangers Derek Stepan and breaking his jaw, and said in light of the injury he understood the suspension of two games he was given by the NHL.
"It's an unfortunate injury, unfortunate for him and unfortunate for me," Prust said after practicing with the Canadiens on Saturday. "I'm not out there trying to injure anybody, and [Stepan's] a friend of mine. My main focus of my hit was keeping my elbow tucked and trying to make sure I got him in the chest. By no means, whether they're friends or not, you don't want to injure anybody."
Prust will miss Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final series at Madison Square Garden on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS) and Game 5 at Bell Centre on Tuesday. The Rangers lead the best-of-7 series 2-1.
He said his intention in making the hit was to bring some energy to his team on his first shift of the game, and in trying to focus on hitting Stepan cleanly, he did not realize how late the hit was.
Prust said his hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety did not concern the hit itself, but rather the timing of it. He said he hit Stepan 0.8 seconds after he let go of the puck, and that the NHL generally considers 0.6 seconds to be an acceptable delay for finishing a check.
"It's my first shift and first [playoff] game back at MSG and emotions are going," said Prust, who played with the Rangers from 2009-12 before signing with the Canadiens. "I want to get out there and create contact, and that's kind of my main goal. That is the focus and what we talk about, get out and get physical. Unfortunately, my timing was off."
Prust said once he heard about Stepan's injury he reached out via text message to apologize and tell him he felt "awful" about the result of the hit. He said Stepan responded, but it was brief.
"It was short, but, yeah," Prust said. "I think he understands where I'm coming from. It's a tough situation right now."
Prust was once a fan favorite in New York during his days with the Rangers. Now he isn't.
"They're not my fans anymore," Prust said. "I'm in Montreal now, and those are my fans. That's kind of who I care about. I remember my time here and I still love this city and appreciate this organization, but…I'm focused on getting ready and coming back for Game 6. I'm not worried about all that other stuff."
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