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Lapointe avoids suspension for hit on Oilers' Hemsky
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 12/27/2007 12:02 AM

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Martin Lapointe defended Sunday's hit on Edmonton's Ales Hemsky that outraged Oilers coach Craig MacTavish and earned the Blackhawks' winger a $1,500 fine, which was handed down by the NHL on Wednesday.

The Oilers were hoping for a suspension.

Hemsky, who hurt his left knee when he went knee to knee with Lapointe, could be sidelined for a lengthy period of time. Hemsky will undergo an MRI today in Edmonton.

After the game MacTavish called it a "dirty hit" and complained how he lost one of his best players to a "guy that plays 10 minutes a game," meaning Lapointe.

"I heard the comments from Craig MacTavish, and maybe it was a little frustration," Lapointe said. "I've played against Craig and he knows I'm not a dirty player and I'm not there to hurt anybody on the ice.

"It was kind of disappointing to hear that, but he's a coach and he's just looking out for his players. It's too bad he felt like that, but I'm a big boy and I can take it."

Lapointe said he was trying to hit Hemsky with a shoulder and was leaning in when their knees got tangled.

"He was coming out of the corner and I wanted to surprise him with a hit," Lapointe said. "He saw me at the last minute and tried to move and slid into my knee. I'm not trying to hurt anyone. It just happens. It's a quick game out there."

Colin Campbell, the NHL's chief of discipline, reviewed the play and decided there would be no suspension.

Hawks coach Denis Savard said Lapointe's reputation as a clean player likely was taken into account by the league.

"I don't think he was attempting to injure the player," Savard said. "He was trying to get his shoulder in there. Marty's not that type of player anyway. He plays an honest, clean game, and I think the league knows that."

As for MacTavish's comments, Savard defended his player against them.

"That's his opinion," Savard said. "He'd probably like to have him on his team, I'll tell you that. Marty has always been an honest player. He's clean and he's always played hard."

Lapointe received a minor penalty on the play for tripping and later fought Oilers enforcer Zach Stortini, who came looking for revenge in the third period.

"Marty had to face the music with Stortini, and that's the way the game is," Savard said.