- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dale Hunter was no saint as a player, but as a coach he made it clear he wasn’t happy that the Boston Bruins were targeting Nicklas Backstrom’s head. The Washington Capitals coach said it crossed the line and was “not the right way to play.”

The Bruins didn’t take too kindly to that accusation Wednesday.

“I don’t know any coach that would tell his team to go after somebody’s head. … It’s ludicrous. It’s ridiculous,” coach Claude Julien said. “Being accused of head-hunting is ludicrous.”

Backstrom missed 40 games from January through March with a concussion, and Jason Chimera contended that opponents have been “taking liberties with his head” since returning to the Caps’ lineup.

Boston goalie Tim Thomas whacked Backstrom in the head with his blocker in Game 2, and Milan Lucic knocked his helmet off in a post-whistle scrum in Game 3.

“It’s been physical. I don’t think anybody’s targeting anything,” Bruins tough guy Shawn Thornton said. “We just focus on playing and all the other stuff; I don’t read too much into it.”

Backstrom, suspended for Game 4 for cross-checking Rich Peverley in the face at the final horn Monday, said he thought the Bruins were going after his head “a little bit” but made it clear he doesn’t mind tough hockey. Even a few teammates like Jay Beagle and Karl Alzner downplayed the notion that head-hunting was really going on.

“I don’t think there was targeting. It’s hockey,” captain Alex Ovechkin said. “It’s a physical game.”

That’s the way the Bruins want to play, and Patrice Bergeron said he and his teammates were just taking part in “playoff hockey.”

The Bruins have two players currently out with concussions. Marc Savard’s career is likely over, and Nathan Horton was ruled out for the playoffs. Bergeron also had one in 2007, so he hopes his teammates aren’t trying to reinjure Backstrom‘s.

“It’s not fun. You never want that to happen. We’re worried about playing playoff hockey, playing hard and within the rules while finding results,” he said. “Games are played hard, especially this time of year. I haven’t seen anything that’s out of the ordinary with our series.”

Vokoun had ‘pretty severe’ groin tear

Skating with teammates in practice Wednesday for the first time since aggravating a groin injury March 29, goaltender Tomas Vokoun was far from upbeat about his progress.

“No news. It’s time-consuming injury. I feel better. At a certain point, obviously you need to be totally at a different point to be able to play and play in playoffs and play a hundred percent and be able to do everything you should out there,” Vokoun said. “Saying that, it is getting better and we’re working on it, but I had an MRI and it was a pretty severe tear, so those take time to heal.”

The 35-year-old pending free agent who signed with the Caps for the chance to carry the load has been forced to watch as Braden Holtby has assumed the role of playoff starter. He has no timetable on a return.

“Honestly, I have no idea. The explanation from the doctor to me was that it’s like a concussion,” Vokoun said. “Somebody heals in months, somebody else [sooner], it all depends on how your body is reacting so you can’t predict.”

Offside call missed

The Caps were stinging from Zdeno Chara’s game-winning goal Monday night, perhaps even more so when seeing that video showed the play was offside.

Hunter brought that to reporters’ attention Wednesday when discussing that referees miss calls.

“Definitely offside,” he said. “It was a bad call. Should have been called.”

Chris Kelly was clearly in the offensive zone before the puck, though the goal did not happen immediately after.

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