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Hockey Habs’ Prust accepts punishment for hit on Stepan

The Montreal Canadiens say Brandon Prust's hit that left New York's Derek Stepan injured was fair. Rangers forward Daniel Carcillo received a 10-game suspension for abusing an official after being penalized for charging Prust.

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It's a basic human trait; people have a tendency to rationalize their misbehaviour.

Admitting guilt, then, is hard.

But Brandon Prust of the Montreal Canadiens is also hard, and that's what he did on Saturday – this shouldn't be a novelty, but it feels that way.

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The rough-hewn winger will sit out the next two games for his game three hit on New York Rangers centre Derek Stepan, a punishment he accepts.

"The NHL deems a hit late around .6 seconds, and I'm at .8 seconds, so you know, that's on me," said the former Ranger, "It's late, but for me my focus was on trying to make a good, clean body check and not leave my feet, my elbows tucked, and everything about the actual contact is clean, it's just late."

Prust and Stepan played together for two seasons, and the former reached out to the latter via text message to express his remorse once he realized he had suffered a broken jaw (Stepan did finish the game, the fracture was discovered on a follow-up examination Friday).

"I told him I feel awful. I didn't want to injure anybody, especially a friend of mine. I told him exactly what I told you guys. It was my first shift. I'm just trying to create some body contact. I feel awful. You never want to hurt anybody, and I hope he recovers well," Prust said.

Asked whether Stepan replied, Prust said "yeah, it was short."

Prust said he didn't think the hit would have merited a suspension if Stepan wasn't hurt, and while he might be right about that, he can have no complaints.

The 23-year-old Stepan, who has never missed a game through injury in his four-year NHL career, has a fractured jaw and the Rangers offered no timeline on his return.

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Coach Alain Vigneault was asked if it's possible that he could suit up as quickly as Sunday's game four, and replied "He's at the hospital right now recovering from surgery, so I would say unlikely."

Vigneault and his players made no secret of the fact they are still upset about the injury to Stepan, who is the Rangers' second-leading scorer of the playoffs.

At the same time, goalie Henrik Lundqvist said it's unlikely there will be any lingering animosity or resentment toward Prust..

"There are a lot of players who play on the edge. That is their role. That's what they do. They're always going to play it like that. Sometimes things happen and maybe they take it a

little too far. As it comes to relationships as friends, in the summertime you move past that. But right now, do I like what happened? Absolutely not. But it's on the ice," he said.

The leather-lunged fans at Madison Square Garden may take a different approach toward their former favourite son.

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Prust is okay with that.

"During playoffs I've been kind of staying off the Twitter, so I know, obviously, New York fans aren't happy, and rightfully so. They're passionate fans and protect their players just like the organization does, just like Montreal fans would do for me," he said. "So it's a good thing."

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