Saturday, December 18, 2010

Check on Perron still not forgotten as Blues, Sharks meet tonight

Blues forward still suffering from concussion as result
of hit from Thornton; teams still disagree on what happened

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Forty-five days have passed since we last saw the Blues' David Perron on the ice. It was here against the San Jose Sharks, the same squad the Blues will oppose tonight.

It was the hit that rocked the Blues at the time, albeit they had no idea that the severity of Perron's injury would take us to this date and keep the forward out of the lineup.

The culprit of it all, Sharks center Joe Thornton, returns to the scene that saw him knock Perron hard to the ice, an injury that would eventually result in a concussion.

Perron was skating up the left side of the ice, head turned to take in a pass from teammate Alex Pietrangelo. Thornton was coming out of the penalty box. Next thing you know, Thornton was laying a crushing shoulder hit to Perron's head. The rest is history.

Although the Blues do not harbor any ill will towards Thornton, not known as a dirty player around the league, they immediately contested that Thornton's hit was not in the best interests of the game, an East-West hit or blindside hit, if you will. And on the flip side, the Sharks immediately came back with that it was not a cheap/dirty hit, that it was a North-South hit.

In the immediate aftermath, there were whispers and some voices heard -- among them, national and Sharks media and a hint from Thornton himself -- that Perron faked the injury because he came back and eventually scored the second goal in the Blues' 2-0 victory.

Thornton was suspended two games by the league but has since returned to action. And as the two teams see each other for the first time since that day, both still contest their respective sides of the story.

"I thought it was an East-West hit, shoulder-to-head point of contact, with the onus being on the hitter," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "The call and the assessment of the hit, I think, was accurate.

"I don't believe the intent was there, but again, the onus being on the hitter is the standard that's been explained to us, and it's pretty clear-cut from those views."

Even though Perron will miss his 21st game tonight, the Sharks still stand by their star center and have not altered their perspective.

"From our perspective, I would say no because we still believe in what our argument was," Sharks coach Todd McClellan said. "There's players that get hurt every night on very clean checks.

"(It's) my sole opinion, but if there was intent to injure somebody, I would expect the suspension to be much more severe."

"David Perron's a tremendous young player who's not only an asset to his team but to the league and he's a fun player to watch," McClellan added. "He does some very dynamic things. We don't want to see anybody out like that. The fact that he did come back that night and scored was worked into our argument, but nobody could predict he would be out this long."

Thornton, who is third on the Sharks with 28 points in 30 games, realizes that both sides are going to be split on the subject.

"I understand. I can see it two different ways," he said. "It’s unfortunate David’s still injured. I kind of know him on a personal level, too. It’s tough with him still out.

"When he came back that game, you thought, ‘Oh, he’s going to be fine. No big deal’ But obviously he’s been out for a while with a head injury. Any play that happens when you get suspended, you can kind of see it both ways. It’s just unfortunate he hasn’t come back yet."

Blues fans, understandably so, will be curious to see if their team will look for payback or see their team go head-hunting themselves. But the Blues (15-10-5) understand there's more pressing matters at hand. The Western Conference is a bear and each time they step on the ice, two points is all that matters.

"I wouldn't really read too much into it," defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo said. "Obviously we're still feeling the effects of it with having a guy like Perry out of our lineup, but obviously there was no intent there on (Thornton's) part. I think it was just an incident where he was just a bigger man and caught himself in a bad position and obviously made a questionable hit on one of our players. But we've moved on, and David's hopefully has moved on from it. Obviously he's wishing that he'd be in a better position, but it is what it is. I think the focus that we need to have is to continue playing the type of hockey that's going to win us hockey games.

"We're dealing with our own issues right now. We don't need anything haunting us from the past. Obviously, we're missing a lot of guys out of our lineup and we can't make that an excuse for ourselves."

Payne agrees.

"For us, we recognize that these guys are right there in the midst of the Western Conference standings," he said. "We know it's going to be a hard-fought battle. We've got to make sure that we focus in on just that.

"We've got plenty to focus on with our game. If we start getting ahead of ourselves or looking at any other situation, it's a distraction that doesn't have much value for our team right now."

One thing is for certain tonight: Thornton can expect the rude treatment from Blues fans. They certainly have not forgotten.

"We’ll go in and see tomorrow night, but really, at this point in my career, you’re not surprised by anything," Thornton said, "which is normal, I think, in situations like that. Obviously when someone gets hurt you’re going to be divided on what kind of play it was. We thought it was north-south, they thought it was east-west. It’s just unfortunate that David Perron is hurt."

The Blues and Sharks do agree on that.

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