- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 5, 2002

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Jeff O'Neill, the leading goal scorer for the Carolina Hurricanes the last two seasons, was suspended for tonight's playoff game for his hit from behind on Montreal Canadiens defenseman Sheldon Souray.
O'Neill was given a game misconduct less than five minutes into the Hurricanes' 2-0 victory in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series Friday night for his check on Souray, who fell down in pain and was helped off the ice. The defenseman returned 30 seconds into the second period, but played just one shift after his shoulder injury.
O'Neill had a team-leading 31 goals this season and 41 in 2000-2001. He'll likely be replaced on Carolina's top line by rookie Jaroslav Svoboda, who assisted on Ron Francis' game-winning goal.
"You don't replace those kind of players in terms of abilities over the long haul, but in a one-game situation you have to come up with it," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. "Jaroslav did a nice job filling the void and I'm sure he'll get that opportunity again."
The 6-foot-4, 223-pound Souray hit Sami Kapanen from behind along the boards seconds before the O'Neill hit. However, O'Neill said he didn't see the hit on his linemate and just caught Souray moving in an awkward position.
"It was a situation where I was trying forecheck and trying to finish my check and he turned the wrong way that I thought he was going to, and it ended up being a suspension," O'Neill said.
"I've seen stuff go on that looks like something out of Ultimate Fighting Challenge in some of the other series and nothing has been called," O'Neill added.
Montreal didn't buy the O'Neill explanation.
"I think he deserved a suspension and one game is fair," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien.
Souray hurt his left shoulder as he crashed awkwardly into the sideboards. He said yesterday his status for Game 2 is unclear.
"I think it's dangerous, but I really don't want to get into being controversial about it," Souray said of the O'Neill hit.
Souray believes O'Neill knew exactly what he was doing after the hit on Kapanen.
"He was doing something that was premeditated," Souray said. "It's a tough thing for me to say as a player that we don't respect each other."
The Canadiens are sensitive to such hits. Montreal lost top playoff scorer Richard Zednik with a vicious shot by Boston defenseman Kyle McLaren in the opening series.
"Certainly emotions run high and he may have thought he was doing the right thing, but it's not a way of doing things, hitting somebody from behind," Montreal's Gino Odjick said.


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