ARLINGTON, Va. -- As the Washington Capitals wait to find out the fate of Nicklas Backstrom's status for Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the Boston Bruins, coach Dale Hunter went on the offensive Tuesday to defend his star center's actions at the end of Game 3.
Backstrom was assessed a match penalty after cross-checking Boston's Rich Peverley in the waning seconds of the Bruins' 4-3 victory Monday night at Verizon Center. He is suspended for Game 4 pending a review of the incident by the League's Department of Player Safety on Tuesday.
"No, because I don't think he's going to be suspended," Hunter said when asked if he has to prepare for not having Backstrom in the lineup. "If you slow it down, frame-by-frame, where was [Peverley]'s stick? It was up in his face first. If you watch, just go back and re-watch it again -- [Peverley's] stick is up in his face and Nicky, because of the stick in his face and the guy put his stick up like that, Nicky reacted to it.
"I think he was trying to protect his face. If you watch it, the stick is right in his eyes. It is a dangerous play on their part. Especially for him, if you notice every scrum Nicky comes out with no helmet on. He gets blockered to the head by [Tim] Thomas in the game before, so he's protecting his head. He just came off of [missing] 40 games. You have to protect your head. With [Peverley's] stick being in his face like that, it is a dangerous play on his part."