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Bruins’ Paille hit with four-game ban

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / February 5, 2011

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WILMINGTON — Daniel Paille knew he would likely face a suspension, possibly for a game or two, after he leveled Dallas forward Raymond Sawada in the second period of the Bruins’ 6-3 victory Thursday night.

But after the left winger presented his side of the story yesterday morning via conference call with Mike Murphy, the NHL’s senior vice president of hockey operations, Paille was shocked to learn he had been suspended for four games.

“When I hit him, I felt that I hit his shoulder at that moment,’’ Paille said, explaining the hit that caused Sawada to suffer a broken nose and injured shoulder. Paille was assessed a match penalty that ended his night.

“I felt like he turned toward me, so I tried to finish my check,’’ Paille said. “Obviously with Rule 48 now, it’s sensitive and I know that it’s something where someone has to be made an example of and it happened to be me in this situation right now.

“While I don’t agree with the amount of games, I accept it and I’m just going to focus now on being ready to come back.’’

Paille, who will forfeit $23,118.28 in pay, will not be eligible to return to the lineup until Feb. 15, when the Bruins host Toronto.

Paille was the fifth NHL player to be sanctioned under Rule 48, which was instituted last year to protect vulnerable players from blind-side hits to the head. It came in the wake of Penguin Matt Cooke’s hit on Bruin Marc Savard, who underwent a painstaking return from that head injury only to suffer another concussion at Colorado Jan. 22 on a crunching blow from former Bruin Matt Hunwick.

“Obviously, we’re right at the forefront of this whole concussion/head-shot thing and a big proponent of what the league is trying to do, so I support that,’’ said Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli, who informed Paille of his suspension. “I think we, as an organization, we’ve contributed a lot to that, but I thought [the penalty on Paille] was a little stiff. We felt he tried to hit that player and we felt he tried to square up and circle around.

“In fact, if you look at the footage, at one point he was about 2 or 3 feet ahead of the player, and circled back. Whether the hit was in that danger zone — that lateral blind spot — it probably was, but I really felt he tried to circle back, and tried to get square with the player and get in front of him.’’

Asked if Paille, as a first-time offender who did not have a reputation for making such illegal checks, deserved leniency from the league, Chiarelli said, “I thought it should have been less than four games. I mean, there’s a couple out there that was two and three games, so I thought it should have been around there.’’

The league meted out its stiffest penalty yet against Paille after issuing two two-game and two three-game suspensions in Rule 48 violations.

“Oh, I was expecting a suspension, for sure, possibly two games,’’ Paille said. “But I was shocked at the amount and now I’ll just accept it. I just hope [Sawada’s] all right. Right now, I think he does not have a concussion, which is something I’m glad he doesn’t have.’’

Paille said he had not reached out to Sawada, but indicated it was his intention to do so.

“I just hope that the injuries he has now is all he gets,’’ Paille said. “If I get in touch with him, I’ll probably just say that I was going to finish my check and I had no intention of hurting him with the way I did there. I would hope that he would somewhat understand, knowing that type of player that I am, I don’t go looking for that.’’

After Thursday’s game, Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference characterized it as “a bad hit,’’ adding, “That’s what they’re trying to get rid of. You can’t be hypocritical about it when it happens to you, then say it’s fine when your teammate does it. It’s a hit they’re trying to get rid of.’’

Asked about his teammate’s reaction, Paille said, “I think if that’s what they see, that’s their view. To me, I thought it was a clean hit. It’s too bad, I thought for sure because I know most of the guys in this room would disagree with that. For those who didn’t, it’s understandable with how the issue is right now with those types of hits.

“But I know that a lot of the guys on the team here know me and understand me and agree with me. Just looking at the replay of it, I feel that I hit with the shoulder. I think that I won’t focus too much on those guys and get the support from everybody else.’’

And that included not only Chiarelli, but coach Claude Julien, who unequivocally voiced his support of Rule 48 — but also rose to Paille’s defense, saying victims of such hits also bear some responsibility for putting themselves in those vulnerable situations, as Sawada did when he skated with his head down into the slot.

“I think if the players start taking that responsibility, it’s going to minimize a lot of these things,’’ Julien said. “That’s where that belongs, to me — squarely on their shoulders. I’m talking about when someone’s coming at you, and you try to get away and you know you’re going to get hit and you turn your back to them. I think there’s some responsibility there that’s got to be put on both [parties].

“First of all, a guy’s got to be careful, but if he’s facing [a defender] until the last fraction of a second and he turns, how is a guy supposed to stop?

“As a player, I know I wouldn’t want a concussion by avoiding putting myself in those situations. So until the players really take it upon themselves, we’re still going to get those things happening, and we can minimize that if they do their part.’’

Asked if he felt the league tried to make an example of Paille, Chiarelli said, “What I know is this: the league is not opposed to sending strong messages. Again, this thing is a hot issue, and rightfully so.

“Part of me, deep down, thought something like this would come down, and it did.’’

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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