Danny Briere Injured After Big Hit: Will Sidney Crosby Be Targeted by Flyers?

Jason SapunkaCorrespondent IIApril 2, 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 29: Danny Briere #48 of the Philadelphia Flyers skates against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the game at Consol Energy Center on December 29, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Penguins got their message across on Sunday night, if their message was "if you blow us out in our own arena we will injure one of your best players."

One day after Danny Briere of the Philadelphia Flyers was the victim of a hard shoulder-to-shoulder open-ice hit, the forward was reported injured.

The hit was delivered by Joe Vitale with 1:07 left to go in what was then a 6-3 game in favor of the Flyers.

Philadelphia GM Paul Holmgren said, "Danny Briere is out indefinitely with an upper back contusion," according to Dave Isaac of Philly Sports Daily.

Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer suggests Briere is expected to be ready for the playoffs, which start next week.

Behind the Flyers' top line of Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr, Briere has the fourth-most points of any Philadelphia player this season with 49 in 70 games. The 34-year-old veteran is also a leader on the team, shown by his status as an alternate captain.

After the rough game, the Penguins' captain Sidney Crosby had some interesting comments on the brawl that occurred after Briere was hit.

Crosby said, "I’m sure (Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette) doesn’t like to see one of their top players getting hit... Maybe he shouldn’t have put him out there," according to Carchidi.

If Crosby believes in what he's saying, he thinks that what happened to Briere is perfectly fine.

By that logic, if the Flyers are getting blown out on Saturday (when these two teams meet for their final regular season game), they should put out their best fighters and have someone take a run at one of Pittsburgh's top forwards; like the concussion-prone Crosby or Hart Memorial Trophy candidate Evgeni Malkin.

Cliches are generally an annoyance, but that one about throwing stones and glass houses seems oddly appropriate here.

If Crosby was hit like Briere was, he could be out for months with concussion issues; a lingering head injury has limited him to just 60 games over the past two seasons.

Why is Crosby defending Vitale's actions?

There was no need for Vitale to hit Briere that hard that late in the game. Vitale was not going to turn momentum around and spark a three-goal Penguins comeback with 1:10 to play.

Furthermore, if the Penguins were trying to come back, they would not have a line of Vitale between Craig Adams and Arron Asham on the ice then, with a guy like Deryk Engelland playing defense.

They would have Crosby or Malkin out, probably with other top scorers like James Neal or Jordan Staal with Kris Letang playing defense.

The hit itself was clean, but the situation made it a cheap shot; the only point of putting a physical line out was to go after the Flyers that were on the ice.

Briere said of the hit, "You knew what he was doing. He was obviously trying to hurt me. We all know that."

The situation is similar to something that happened between the Vancouver Canucks and the original Winnipeg Jets franchise.

On February 9, 1995 the Canucks' Michael Peca laid a huge hit on Teemu Selanne. Tie Domi, then a member of the Jets, started a brawl late in the game.

Domi can be heard yelling after the fights, "Don't dress (Pavel) Bure next game."

That's the type of situation a team puts itself in when going after the other team's star players; you go after our scorers, we're going after yours.

An angry Laviolette may have just found himself a reason to dress enforcer Jody Shelley on Saturday when the Flyers go back to Pittsburgh.

Vitale, Crosby and the rest of the Penguins better be ready for the Flyers; this franchise does not take kindly to cheap shots.



B/R Featured Columnist Jason Sapunka covers the NHL and Philadelphia Flyers.