Penguins-Lightning Preview

Tampa Bay’s Steve Downie expressed regret. Pittsburgh’s Chris

Kunitz was remorseful, too.

The Lightning and Penguins each will be without a key player for

Game 4 of their first round playoff series Wednesday night after

the NHL suspended Downie and Kunitz one game apiece for hits

delivered in separate incidents during the opening period of

Pittsburgh 3-2 victory in Game 3.

Instead of debating the fairness of the discipline, both players

said they wished they had been more careful. The Penguins lead the

series 2-1.

”I’m very disappoined in myself,” Downie said Tuesday. ”I

felt like I let the team down.”

The league announced Tuesday that Downie was banned for Game 4

for leaving his feet and launching himself at the head of

Pittsburgh’s Ben Lovejoy while the defenseman was making a play

behind his own net. The hit drew a loud roar from a sellout crowd

that was quickly silenced when the Penguins’ Maxime Talbot raced up

ice with the puck and scored the game’s first goal.

”I was going in hard on a forecheck. I finished my hit and

unfortunately it ended up the way it did . … Momentum carried me

through and I ended up off my feet,” Downie said.

A delayed penalty was going to be assessed on the hit, but the

call was nullified when Talbot scored his first goal of the series

before the Lightning regained possession of the puck.

Although Lovejoy said he was not hit in the head, NHL senior

executive vice president vice president Colin Campbell said in

announcing the suspension: ”Downie left his feet and launched

himself at the head of his opponent and he came from a considerable

distance, with speed and force, to deliver the check.”

”He didn’t get me in the head, but, he certainly was off the

ice when he got me,” said Lovejoy, who got the lone assist on

Talbot’s goal.

”I knew I was going to get hit. I wanted to make the play. I

wanted to get the puck out,” Lovejoy added. ”Max certainly made

them pay for what happened. … Luckily he got me in the chest. He

didn’t launch himself and hit me in the head. Thank you for


Kunitz was suspended for elbowing Tampa Bay’s Simon Gagne in the

head, drawing a minor penalty about five minutes after Downie

leveled Lovejoy.

Although Gagne implied the blow was intentional, Kunitz insisted

it wasn’t.

”I had my hearing this morning. Told my side of it. Obviously

it looks bad. I never intentionally meant to hurt him. I’m glad

that he’s OK and was able to finish the game,” Kunitz said.

”I was coming through the middle, getting ready to finish a

check. … I had my arms in a bad spot, up in the air. He kind of

spun and turned back towards me and I went to brush him in the

shoulder and I got him in the head,” Kunitz added. ”Not very

responsible on my side. I’ve definitely got to be careful, but I’m

glad he’s OK.”

Gagne declined to speculate on whether the league should have

imposed a longer suspension on Kunitz.

”The league looked at it and made a decision that it was a

one-game suspension,” the Lightning forward said.

”I don’t know if it’s enough, but still it’s for one game. He’s

a good player and he’s not going to be able to play for them,”

Gagne added. ”It’s going to be a big loss for them. He’s a big

part of their team.”

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said Mike Comrie or Eric Tangradi,

both scratches for Game 3 on Monday night, could replace Kunitz for

Game 4. Marc-Andre Bergeron is among the options Lightning coach

Guy Boucher is considering as a fill-in for Downie.

Meanwhile, there’s been no change in the status of Penguins star

Sidney Crosby, who has been out since January because of a


”He was on the ice today skating with the team,” Bylsma said

after practice at the St. Pete Times Forum. ”Nothing has changed.

His rehab today prescribed by the doctor was back on the ice.”

After regaining home-ice advantage on Monday night, the Penguins

will be looking to take a commanding lead in the best-of-seven

Eastern Conference matchup. Game 5 is Saturday in Pittsburgh.

”Obviously we want to get back in our building with a 3-1 lead.

They’ll be a desperate hockey club. It should be a great game,”

Penguins right wing Pascal Dupuis said.

”It’s huge for both teams, obviously,” Talbot added. ”We’re

going to keep doing what we’ve doing, but at the same time we know

how they’re going to come out. It’s important for them to have a

good start and to score the first goal. We know they’re going to do

everything they can to get it.”

The Lightning, which has nine players who made their playoff

debut in the series opener, said its important they not dwell on

losing Game 3.

”We know what we did wrong, the mitsakes we made on the ice,”

captain Vincent Lecavalier said. ”We’ve just got to rebound,

reload and make sure we’re ready.”