Matt Niskanen says he does not believe Patrice Bergeron’s hit was a dirty one and added that the Bruins center reached out to him via text message after Wednesday’s game.
“I appreciate that,” Niskanen said, referring to Bergeron’s text. “I have a lot of respect for him as a player.”
In the first period of Washington’s 4-3 overtime win, Bergeron hit Niskanen from behind, sending the Capitals defenseman into the end boards headfirst. Niskanen did not return to the game. Bergeron, meanwhile, was assessed two minutes for boarding.
On Friday, Niskanen missed his first game since signing with Washington prior to the 2014 season, ending his streak of consecutive games played at 189.
Niskanen returned to practice on Saturday and afterward said he did not believe Bergeron acted with malice. In fact, Niskanen believes his injury, which the team has only called upper body in nature, was likely caused by a confluence of events, including unfortunate timing.
“I don’t think it was that bad of a hit,” Niskanen said. “I didn’t think it was live, and even after watching it, I can see where that can happen.”
He added: “It was one of those where I lost my balance the wrong distance from boards. If I’m two feet closer to the boards, nothing happens. If I’m two feet further away, nothing happens. Those kinds of things happen. He’s not a viscous player. [Texting] was a classy thing for him to do. He didn’t have to that.”
Niskanen is in the NHL’s concussion protocol, though it’s unclear if he actually sustained a head injury. If he clears all of the mandated steps, it’s possible he’ll be cleared in time to suit up against the Canucks on Sunday.
“He practiced well and said he felt pretty good, so we’ll what his status is tomorrow morning,” Coach Barry Trotz said. “There’s a protocol the NHL has for injuries and we’ll follow that protocol to a T. And that’s why we can’t give you an answer right now.”
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