Matt Grzelcyk on Pettersson’s comments: ‘I’m certainly not a dirty player’

Matt Kalman
February 12, 2020 - 4:44 pm

Consider the NHL on notice: Matt Grzelcyk is dirty.

That’s what Vancouver star forward Elias Pettersson would’ve had you believe last week after the Bruins defenseman hit him a little late after a pass and Pettersson was shaken up.

To be fair, the next day Pettersson, who finished the game against the Bruins but sat out two nights later against Minnesota, didn’t call Grzelcyk dirty. He just called the play “kind of dirty.”

Pettersson returned to action for the Canucks two nights after he sat out the game against the Wild.

While you can discern the difference between Pettersson criticizing the play and the player, the comments could’ve tainted the 5-foot-9, 174-pound blueliner’s sterling reputation.

Grzelcyk’s confident his past shows that dirty isn’t an adjective that relates to him.

“I mean it’s tough. Maybe it should’ve been a penalty for sure,” Grzelcyk told WEEI.com Wednesday. “Maybe he’s not too familiar with me, but I’m certainly not a dirty player. I don’t go out there with the intent to injury anyone. Just trying to play the game hard. I’m used to kind of pushing around guys that are a lot bigger than me, so I wasn’t expecting him to go flying like that. But like I said, he was obviously not expecting it because it was a couple seconds after he passed the puck.”

The size differential that Grzelcyk has to overcome when he’s defending against most opposing players makes it all the more remarkable that Grzelcyk hasn’t crossed the line more and often. To survive in the NHL, Grzelcyk has to bring some level of physicality, and it takes a little extra energy for him to throw the body and make an impact. You’ll see him play that way Wednesday against Montreal and most games the rest of the season and his career.

He didn’t hear from the NHL Department of Player Safety after the Pettersson hit and hasn’t been disciplined through the first four seasons of his NHL career. Grzelcyk couldn’t recall any questionable hits he threw in the AHL or college. Tempers can flair when you’re battling in the trenches and you’re giving up 30-40 pounds to your opponent, but Grzelcyk has learned to harness that aggravation.

“I mean it’s not always easy for me, it’s not like I’m going to go out there and be throwing elbows and stuff,” he said. “But I try to take my frustration out in different ways, whether if I’m getting barked out from the coaches to move my feet, then that’s what I’m going to try to do. I’m not going to go out and try to hurt anyone on the ice. I think you just try to answer in different ways.”

Lineup news

Tuukka Rask will make the start against the Canadiens. …. Joakim Nordstrom re-enters the lineup after missing four games with a medical issue. He’ll replace Par Lindholm. … Connor Clifton remains out with his upper-body injury. … John Moore stays in the lineup with Jeremy Lauzon called back up from Providence but still suspended for one more game.

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