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Tortorella fires back on 'headhunter' comment

by Dave Lozo
NEW YORK -- On Saturday, Devils coach Peter DeBoer referred to the Rangers' Brandon Prust as a "headhunter" after his blow to the back of the head of defenseman Anton Volchenkov.

On Sunday, Rangers coach John Tortorella responded to that comment by defending Prust and accusing the Devils of embellishing calls and setting illegal picks during their power plays.

"He's probably one of the most honest players," Tortorella said, before launching into a a big chunk of gamesmanship. "I look at (Dainius Zubrus') elbow to (Anton) Stralman. I look at (Zach) Parise launching himself at (Michael) Del Zotto. Maybe if our players stay down on the ice, we'll get something. We tell our players don't stay down on the ice, get up.

"The picking on the power play. If we want to start discussing officials with the media, I've got a long list here. That's a set play by Jersey -- picking so we can't get to (Ilya) Kovalchuk to block his shot. There's some gamesmanship right there, huh?"

The hit by Prust did not draw a penalty, but it did earn him a hearing with the NHL's Department of Player Safety Sunday morning. He explained the hit following an optional practice at Madison Square Garden, saying Volchenkov ducked into the hit at the last moment.

"I was just trying to get in a check before I was at the end of a shift," Prust said. "I was skating over for a routine check to rub him out and get off the ice and he bailed out of it and turned and kind of went low. It's just kind of a reaction when you're off-balance and your arms go up. I didn't want to do a face-plant into the boards. I had no intent to hit him in the head there."

In regards to the intentional interference with the Devils on the power play, Tortorella was referencing Kovalchuk's goal in Game 2. The puck was moved quickly from the right side of the zone to the left side, and a wide-open Kovalchuk was able to snap a shot over the catching glove of Henrik Lundqvist.

One of the reasons Kovalchuk was all alone was the Devils' Patrik Elias getting in the way of Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi.

"There's been a few times when they try to get in the way in front of the net," Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said. "It's obviously something they've talked about and they're trying to do. We're trying to do our best to get around that, but sometimes you can't and it creates an opportunity for their team. It's more noticeable against these guys. For us as 'D' you want to try to stay loose in case something breaks down. Hopefully this gets the radar up a little bit and helps us out."

As for the notion that the Devils are trying to buy calls by staying down on the ice, Prust said he was surprised that Volchenkov didn't get up right away.

"I didn't even know I elbowed him," Prust said. "I went to the bench and thought maybe I caught him with my knee, maybe charlie-horsed him. I didn't hit him that hard. I think I just grazed his helmet and it slid up. For sure, he's trying to get a penalty when your helmet comes up. It's just natural trying to sell that."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo
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