ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – The contentious cross-check was a “really, really, really dumb play” and “doesn’t belong in any hockey league.”
This coming from the forward who delivered the blow, too.
Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said Friday that he is embarrassed for his two-hands-on-the-stick hit to an Anaheim defenseman that drew a three-game suspension from the NHL.
His stick caught Simon Despres in the neck area during the third period Wednesday. There was no penalty on the play.
“I’m just glad he didn’t get hurt,” said Landeskog, who plans to reach out to Despres when things settle down. “To be honest, I’m really embarrassed watching the tape.”
Landeskog’s absence is a big blow for Colorado, which is in a tight race with Minnesota for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference. He will accompany the Avalanche on their four-game trip – beginning Saturday in Winnipeg – but won’t play again until March 20 in Edmonton.
The gritty Landeskog is third on the team in points with 17 goals and 29 assists. He was also playing some of his best hockey of the season.
Stepping into his place will be Andreas Martinsen, a left winger who sat out four games before returning to the lineup Wednesday and scoring a goal in a 3-0 win over the Ducks.
“I just have to show them I’m worthy of keep going,” Martinsen said.
Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said Martinsen will play alongside Shawn Matthias and Carl Soderberg.
“We just have to move on and focus on our next game,” Roy said. “The league has been very clear about head shots (and is) going to protect the players. I’m sure (Landy) will learn from it.”
Landeskog said the league office reached out to him to get his take on the play. He offered up little defense.
“I told them that there’s no excuse. It was just a dumb play,” said Landeskog, the second overall pick in the 2011 draft who became the NHL’s youngest captain on Sept. 4, 2012, at the age of 19 years, 286 days. “It wasn’t at all my intention to come in the way I did.”
The suspension was a hit to Landeskog’s wallet (docked $203,832.75 in salary) and possibly his reputation. He’s a repeat offender after being suspended two games in November for an illegal check on Boston forward Brad Marchand.
Asked if he’s concerned this might be a blow to his reputation, Landeskog said: “I mean, watching the video you can’t help but think the same thing. If that was somebody else, it’s hard not to judge them for doing what I did.
“It looks bad on the video,” he said. “Whether people are going to change their opinion of me or not, it is what it is. For me, it’s a matter of what I do from here on and make sure I obviously think about what I do out there.”
Colorado currently has a two-point lead in the wild-card standings over Minnesota, but the Wild have played one less game than Colorado.
“We’re happy to be in the playoffs (at this point), there’s no doubt about it,” Roy said. “But it’s too early. There are a lot of games to be played.”
His leader will be watching the next three instead of skating in them.
“It’s terrible timing,” Landeskog said. “I’m not happy with myself that this is the case and that I did not take responsibility for my actions enough to think about it and obviously stop what I did. I know the team is going to do fine. They’re going to have a good road trip.”
– By PAT GRAHAM, AP Sports Writer
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