Jacob Trouba is making more and more enemies in the NHL everyday.
Known for his devastating — and sometimes borderline — hits, the New York Rangers captain looked to light a spark under his team as they trailed the Chicago Blackhawks 3-0 near the end of the second period at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.
As Blackhawks forward Andreas Athanasiou skated the puck out of his own end, Trouba lined him up and delivered a bone-crushing hit, seemingly leaving his feet in the process and catching Athanasiou high. The Rangers defenseman was immediately jumped by Jonathan Toews and all hell broke loose.
Trouba was only assessed a major penalty for fighting on the play.
Fortunately, Athanasiou avoided injury, and returned to oversee Chicago's 5-2 dismantling of New York. Prior to the Blackhawks' loss to the Islanders on Sunday, the 28-year-old shared his feelings about the previous night's play.
“That guy is known for hitting high, not really worrying about the puck out there and almost trying to hurt people,” Athanasiou said. “That’s his game; that’s what he does. He’s an $8 million man with zero goals, so he has to figure out how to do something when making that much. If you can’t help the team, I guess you try to hurt guys on the other team.”
Athanasiou, who was in a vulnerable position at the time of the hit, also felt Trouba could have chosen to play the puck instead of blowing him up at the blue line.
“It was a weird play,” Athanasiou said. “The puck was there. He could’ve made a play on the puck. Instead it’s like [he had] an intent to try to hurt somebody. He’s been known to do that. You have to know when he’s on the ice, and he got me there.”
Trouba has a long history of borderline hits, racking up notable victims like Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon. He also injured Athansiou's current teammate Jujhar Khaira with a hit to the head last season, sidelining the forward for a month.
Khaira was able to exact a bit of revenge when he dropped the gloves with Trouba early in the second period on Saturday.
In 26 games this season, Trouba has no goals and six assists, while accumulating 31 penalty minutes and a minus-9 rating. The 28-year-old is in the fourth year of a seven-year, $56-million contract he signed with the Rangers in 2019.
Trouba was named New York's 28th captain in August.
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