- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 3, 2017

PITTSBURGH — When the puck drops at PPG Paints Arena Wednesday night, Washington Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen knows there could be some angry Pittsburgh Penguins looking for him.

“Possibly,” said Niskanen Wednesday morning, asked if he was expecting retribution for his hit on Sidney Crosby. “It’s a hockey game. Hockey players are emotional guys.”

Crosby is out with a concussion. Niskanen was ejected after the hit in Monday’s game, so he has not been on the ice since. The NHL elected not to hold a hearing, so Niskanen faces no further discipline. On Wednesday he reiterated that he had no intent to injure Crosby, and said he wished the whole play had gone down differently.

“I regret that it happened but I am adamant that I’m not sure, at that game speed, what I could have done different,” Niskanen said. “Obviously in super-slow-mo and in hindsight, I wish I had one hand on my stick and my hands were way down but the collision happened fast.

“And Sid’s trying to score a goal, he’s getting lower and lower as it happens and my intent was not to forcefully cross-check him in the face,” he said. “I think anybody that knows me, I’m not trying to hit guys in the head.”

Niskanen played for the Penguins between 2011-2013, the three seasons before he joined the Capitals. He hasn’t reached out to Crosby yet but plans to.

“I don’t think there’s anything I can say that’s going to make him feel better about it,” Niskanen said. “I’m sure he’s pissed. When the time’s right I’ll probably reach out to him after the boiling over kind of cools down but at this time there’s probably not much I can say to him that’s going to make him feel better about it or believe me.”

Niskanen said that he and Crosby got along “really well” when they were teammates.

“He was a good leader, great teammate,” he said. “I always stood up for him when I was here, I think he could say the same thing about me that we were good teammates and got along well.”

As Niskanen said, players can be emotional. In a Game 4 setting, however, the Penguins and Capitals will both have to be careful. Both teams possess excellent power plays.

If the Penguins come at Niskanen, though, Capitals coach Barry Trotz was confident his player would keep a level head.

“He’ll be fine, he’s a pro. He’s been around,” Trotz said.

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