Sharks, Avs coaches disagree on Stuart hit

Brad Stuart rocks Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog

Sharks, Avs coaches disagree on Stuart hit
January 26, 2013, 5:00 pm
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Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart completely changed the momentum of a game in which Colorado had the early energy, when he crushed Landeskog in the neutral zone.

SAN JOSE – Sharks head coach Todd McLellan and Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco had differing opinions on Brad Stuart’s monster hit of Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog in the first period of San Jose's 4-0 win on Saturday afternoon at HP Pavilion.

In other news, the sky is blue and Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.

“He didn’t leave the ice, his arm was down, he led with the shoulder and got all of the body. In my opinion, it’s a clean hit,” McLellan said.

Sacco said: “It looked like it was a direct blow to the head. It looked like he targeted the head. That was the first point of contact.

“We end up four minutes short, when I thought we should have been on the power play for a minute. But we didn’t get the call. I don’t know why.”

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What’s indisputable is that Stuart’s welcome-back-to-San Jose moment completely changed the momentum of a game in which Colorado had the early energy, when he crushed Landeskog in the neutral zone. Ryan O’Byrne went to the box for four minutes for engaging Stuart in a fight, and the Sharks scored a pair of power play goals to seize control.

Stuart gave his perspective of the game-changing play.

“I fully expected him to pick his head up, but he didn’t,” he said. “At that point he’s pretty vulnerable, but I tried to make a good, solid hit. I’m not trying to hurt anyone or anything, but when a guy doesn’t see you coming, it’s going to look pretty bad.”

As for having to answer to the 6-5, 234-pound O’Byrne, Stuart was fine with it even though he took a couple of punches from the massive defenseman.

“You hit the captain, a young kid, you’ve got to expect somebody’s coming,” Stuart said. “I have no problem with that. That happens. It was over and done with for the rest of the game, which is fine with me.”

Is he worried at all about a call from NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan?

“Right now, no. I don’t see any problem with the hit. I’ve seen stranger things happen. I don’t know what will happen. In my opinion, it was fine.

“You take those hits out of the game, you change the game.”

Landeskog went to the locker room after peeling himself off of the ice with less than five minutes to go in the first, but returned to start the second period.

Sharks captain Joe Thornton, who had a goal and an assist and remains the NHL’s scoring leader, called it one of the biggest hits he’s witnessed.

“It kind of takes your breath away, because you’re like, I hope [Landeskog] is okay. But wow, that was hard,” Thornton said. “It was a great hit and you just hope he’s okay. It was nice to see him come back for the second period. It was just, 'welcome back to San Jose, Brad Stuart.' It was one of the best I’ve ever seen.”

For his part, Landeskog didn't complain about the hit.

“I haven't seen [the replay] but I think it was a clean hit, or felt like a clean hit,” he said. “No elbow, but it was hard, I'll tell you that much. I was kind of reaching for the puck and didn’t brace myself enough and he stepped up. That's the way with hockey, you give some and you take some, and tonight I took a pretty big one.”

Stuart wasn’t consciously trying to change the momentum at the time. It was just one of those so-called hockey plays, in his eyes.

“I wasn’t running around looking for something like that,” Stuart said. “That’s just a situation that occurred. The game is tied, I’m not trying to run around and take myself out of position or do anything that’s going to be detrimental to the team. It’s one of those things that happens.

“That’s how I play. I look for opportunities to make solid hits, and that happened to be one of them.”

It also happened to be the turning point in the Sharks’ fourth straight win to start the season.