Somewhat lost in all of the injury news Tuesday--Kevin Poulin suffered a season-ending knee injury during warmups--was the frustration, anger and outright concern from several players about the lack of calls to protect teammate John Tavares.
The play that incensed the Islanders the most? Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf's blindside hit on Tavares during the second period.
"I didn't see that hit. It came from my side. I didn't think he hit me in the head, but I definitely didn't think I was protected," Tavares said. "I was a little upset about it. You move on. Like I said, I respect the ref's decision. He felt it was a clean hit."
Tavares said he doesn't like to dwell on officiating and whether he receives the appropriate amount of whistle respect.
"It's not something I really worry about. Just like anyone in the league you just want to make sure you are safe and protected out there. Obviously, you're never going to be happy with every single call that's made, but I respect the ref's decision. I know it's a hard job with how fast the game is to make calls, right calls, discretion calls. Whether I like the calls or not, I respect them and they've always been good to me, talking to me about things."
Fourth-line center Zenon Konopka was the most livid after the game and told Newsday he was fed up with the League's lack of concern in protecting Tavares. Konopka hinted that the Islanders would be forced to take matters into their own hands, and that's something enforcer Trevor Gillies seems prepared to do.
"It's no secret that we've definitely been a little frustrated as of late with guys taking runs at our guys, whether it's blindside hit on Comeau, the stuff with [Tavares] or even the fencing with [Okposo]," Gillies said. "I think it's something that may have to be addressed. Hopefully guys will step up rather than shying away."
While Konopka and Gillies have proved more than willing to drop the gloves on almost every occasion, they have not always had sparring partners willing to engage from the opposing team.
"I'm not gonna throw another fighter under the bus, because I have absolute respect for all guys that do the job, but if you're called up to be a tough player and that's the way the game's going, you've got to answer the bell."
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