PITTSBURGH—Two days later, Matt Niskanen still wonders what he could have done differently.
He also said it’s way too early to reach out Sidney Crosby—a friend and former teammate—about the incident Monday night that concussed the Penguins’ captain.
“I regret that it happened,” Niskanen said Wednesday after the Capitals’ morning skate. “But I’m adamant that I’m not sure, at that game speed, what I could have done different.”
“Obviously,” he continued, “in super-slowmo and in hindsight, I wish I had one hand on my stick and my hands were way down. But the collision happened fast and Sid’s trying to score a goal and he’s getting lower and lower as it happens.”
“My intent was not to forcefully cross check him in the face. Anybody that knows me [knows] I’m not trying to hit guys in the head. I’m trying to play hard within the rules, hit guys in the body. And to be honest, I wasn’t even trying to hit him on that play. It was a collision that happened because he was coming in with a serious amount of speed and trying to score and getting lower and lower partially because he’s falling down.”
Asked if he’s heard the criticism about his role in Crosby’s injury, Niskanen said he’s focused on Wednesday's game and little else.
“Lucky [for] me, I’m not on social media,” he said. “There’s going to be some outside noise.”
Niskanen was also asked about the possibility of retribution from the Penguins.
“Possibly,” he said. “It’s a hockey game. Hockey players are emotional guys. If that happens, we’ll cross that bridge when it happens.”
Crosby, of course, is sidelined for Game 4—and possibly longer— with another concussion, his second this season. As expected, he did not participate in the morning skate.
Without Crosby, the Penguins would seem to be nearing their breaking point when it comes to injuries to key players. They entered the postseason without top defenseman Kris Letang and goalie Matt Murray hasn’t played a postseason game. In addition, the Pens will be without winger Conor Sheary, who also suffered a concussion on Monday night.
Niskanen acknowledged the magnitude of Crosby’s absence. But he was quick to point out that the Penguins remain dangerous.
“Well, they are still a darn good team, first and foremost,” Niskanen said. “And we’re going to have to be real good to beat them. But [he’s] the best player in the world [and] he’s playing as good anybody has ever seen him. So, he’s tough to replace, for sure.”
Niskanen and Crosby overlapped as teammates in Pittsburgh from 2010-14 and Niskanen said he considers him a friend. He also praised Crosby as a great leader and a solid teammate. But the Caps’ blue liner indicated that he intends to wait a little while before reaching out to him.
“I don’t think there’s anything I could say that’s going to make him feel better about it,” Niskanen said. “I’m sure he’s pissed. When the time is right, I’ll probably reach out to him, after the boiling over kinda cools down. At this time, there’s not much I can say to him that’s going to make him feel better about it, or believe me.”
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