Montreal Canadiens’ Jake Evans in Stanley Cup opener, first game since concussion

TAMPA, Fla – Montreal Canadiens forward Jake Evans played for the first time in nearly a month after being concussed with a hit by Winnipeg Jets star Mark Scheifele, but he was not still ready to talk about it.

Scheifele was suspended four games for the incident, leaving Evans to leave Game 1 of the second round series on a stretcher. Evans said Scheifele had reached out, but did not reveal details of their interaction.

“I don’t really want to talk about the hitting right now, I prefer to talk about what lies ahead,” Evans said after Montreal’s 5-1 loss to Tampa Bay in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. . “I want to thank our coaches, and this whole process, they helped me out. I guess about the injury I was focusing on not rushing it. Any brain damage is a serious thing to do. I didn’t rush. I just wanted to take my time with that. I obviously wanted to play, but the guys did a great job, so it was easy to take my time. “

Evans was a game time decision on Monday. He replaced Joel Armia, who did not travel with the team originally because he was in COVID-19 protocol. Armia approved the protocol, took a private jet to Tampa Bay, and did some warm-ups. However, the team decided to place Evans on the fourth row instead of Armia, alongside Corey Perry and Eric Staal.

Evans played 11:55 and was credited with three hits, one shot on goal and one takeout.

“Joel obviously stayed home a few days without skating – I’m sure there’s a lot of nerves because of what’s going on in the protocols with the tests and stuff,” the head coach said by interim Luke Richardson. “So, we just felt that mood fly away today, this afternoon, that it would be better to put it on the ice for a warm-up, to get the blood flowing.” Jake was cleared to play. And that was our decision on that. And Jake played well. We thought he was playing very heads-up hockey. He contributed to the PK. I thought he fit in well with that lineage with Perry and Staal, and created offensive cycling just like Joel would. So I thought it was working fine. “

For Evans, 25, the four weeks have been a strange one. The Canadiens played nine games without him and won seven. That included eliminating the favored Golden Knights in the semifinals, as Montreal advanced to the Stanley Cup final for the first time since 1993.

“These are mixed emotions. You obviously watch the team play so well, so that’s great. But the first set in Winnipeg, I couldn’t even make it to the ice, so it was tough, ”said Evans. “This second round, again, the guys were playing really well and it was great to watch, but you just want to be available and be ready to fight whenever you get the chance. Not having that opportunity was pretty frustrating. But as I keep saying, the guys played so well, and [have] got to the final and gave me another chance to play. So that was good. “

The hit that left Evans concussed came after he scored a goal into an empty net during a wrap-up with 56.9 seconds left. Scheifele skated on Evans at full speed and delivered what the NHL Player Safety Department deemed “predatory” and “a hard and violent failure to an opponent, the outcome of the game and the game having already been decided. “.

Scheifele categorically denied this assessment. He did not appeal the suspension, although he called it “excessive”.

“I’m more shocked than anything. I didn’t think it was a bad move,” Scheifele said at the time. “I’m coming back to try and cut it off at the post. Trying to give our team a chance to win. I’ve never hurt anyone in my entire career. So it hurts me, I have immense respect for my peers. One of those things that I have to learn and know that there is a plan for everything. “

Evans – speaking to reporters for the first time since the incident – was asked consecutive questions at the time, including whether he accepted Scheifele’s explanation. Each time, he politely postponed an answer.

“Again, I don’t really want to talk about the hit,” Evans said. “We can talk about it after the season, I just don’t want to talk about it now. Sorry.”

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