Paul MacLean puts blame on Raphael Diaz for Lars Eller hit

By Adam Gretz | Hockey writer

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The big story in the NHL on Thursday night was the incident in Montreal involving Canadiens forward Lars Eller and Ottawa's Eric Gryba.

Eller had to be taken off on a stretcher after Gryba hit him coming through the neutral zone, resulting in Eller falling face first on the ice. He was taken to the hospital with facial injuries and kept for observation, while Gryba was given a five-minute major and ejected from the game.

Gryba has a hearing scheduled for Friday and could be suspended for Game 2 on Friday night.

Senators coach Paul MacLean defended his player after the game and seemed to put the blame on Eller's teammate, defenseman Raphael Diaz, for leaving him out to dry coming through the middle of the rink (also referred to as "a suicide pass").

"I thought player 61, if I'm ... was it Eller that got hit? I'm really mad at player 61, whoever he is," MacLean said during his postgame press conference. "Because he passed me the puck in the middle of the rink when I wasn't looking, and that's always been a dangerous place. As far as I know, ever since I've been playing this game, that's a dangerous place to be. Bad things happen."

Player 61, of course, is Diaz.

When asked a follow up question about the hit itself, MacLean said, "I think it's a hockey play that ended up going bad for Lars Eller. Scott Stevens. Doug Harvey. That play has been there since this game has been around. I remember guys telling me don't go through there if you're not looking."

The Canadiens weren't exactly pleased with MacLean's assessment of the play on Friday. Forward Brandon Prust even got a little personal and said, "We don't care what that bug-eyed fat walrus has to say."

I imagine Maclean's analysis is one that a lot of old-time hockey folks will agree with, and even if it was a bad pass by Diaz to put his teammate in a vulnerable spot, the bottom line is you just can't make contact with the head of a player in that situation. And if the league determines in its review that Gryba did make principal point of contact with the head and target it, he's going to sit for a few games.

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