Rangers head coach John Tortorella returned fire one day after Devils head coach Peter DeBoer called Brandon Prust’s unpenalized elbow to the back of Anton Volchenkov’s head in Game 3 Saturday afternoon “head-hunting.”
“Prust has played probably 300-plus games without any hearing. He’s probably one of the most honest players,” Tortorella said in an impassioned defense of his player. “I don’t know what I’m going to do with the lineup. I don’t think he should be suspended. So I really haven’t gone that far because I don’t think he should be.”
Prust told reporters following an optional skate at the Garden Sunday morning that he had a phone hearing with Brendan Shanahan and the league’s Department of Supplemental Discipline.
Prust has played in 279 regular seasons games with the Rangers, Phoenix Coyotes and Calgary Flames. He led the Rangers with 156 penalty minutes while playing all 82 games in the regular season. Prust’s 20 fighting majors tied him with Boston Bruins left wing Shawn Thornton for the NHL lead in the regular season. Prust’s 27 PIMS in 17 playoff games leads the Rangers and has him tied with Phoenix’s Shane Doan and Martin Hanzal for fourth most in the league.
“Great guy on and off the ice, and his play speaks for itself,” Michael Del Zotto said. “You see how hard he works out there. He’s never been a dirty player. He’s an honest player. He has a tough job. Most nights he comes out against guys bigger than him. It’s not an easy job for him and he does it so well.”
Along with providing a physical component, Prust is one the Rangers’ best penalty killers. He makes up the second penalty kill unit with Brian Boyle. Prust averaged 1:40 (136:51 total) of short-handed time a game during the regular season. Prust is averaging 1:50 (31:25 total) of penalty kill time during the playoffs.
Tortorella used his bully pulpit to charge that the Devils have gotten away with penalties and have used embellishment as a tactic to draw penalties.
“I look at [Dainius] Zubrus’ elbow to [Anton] Stralman. I look at [Zach] Parise launching himself at Del Zotto. Maybe if our players stayed down on the ice, we’ll get something,” Tortorella said. “We tell our players don’t stay down on the ice. Get up. I’ll leave it at that.”
He didn’t. Tortorella also complained about the Devils “setting picks” on power plays.
“Picking on the power play, set plays, picking on the power play. If we want to start discussing officials with the media, I have a long list here. That’s a set play by Jersey. Picking so we can’t get to Kovalchuk to block a shot,” Tortorella said. “Game 2 it happened. I brought this up already. It’s a set play, because they know we’re trying to block shots from a pretty good shooter by them. So it happened to Danny [Girardi]. It happened to [Ryan Callahan]. I hope we look for it.”
When told of Tortorella’s comments, DeBoer termed them “comical.”
Game 4 is Monday night at the Rock. The Rangers lead the best-of-7 two games to one.
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.