John Scott had never been suspended before. ©2013, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres’ John Scott apologizes for head hit, defends reputation and role

BUFFALO – Sabres tough guy John Scott acknowledges that, yes, almost six minutes into the third period Wednesday, his powerful blindside headshot that concussed winger Loui Eriksson, while not intentional, was illegal.

“It happened pretty fast,” an apologetic Scott said Thursday inside the First Niagara Center after the reeling 1-9-1 Sabres prepared for tonight’s tilt in Florida against the Panthers. “I just thought I was completing a check. But, obviously, I hit his head. It wasn’t exactly what I was aiming for. I didn’t want to do that. It’s just a bad play, unfortunate it happened.”

But the 6-foot-8 Scott, who had never been suspended in his 187-game NHL career, bristles at the cries he’s a dirty player and doesn’t belong in the league.

“I don’t think I’m a dirty player,” Scott said. “I try to play within the code, within the rules. This is my first suspension. I don’t think I’m dirty. I don’t try to be a dirty player. I kind of feel really upset. I was sick to my stomach last night knowing what happened watching the video. I just kind of regret the whole situation. I don’t want to be a dirty player.”

Scott, who skated 5:15 in the Sabres’ 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins, said “it’s just nonsense” some observers are saying coach Ron Rolston had his enforcer on the ice to hurt someone.

NBC Sports Network analyst Mike Milbury lambasted both following the game, calling for the Sabres to fire Rolston, who’s “way over his head,” and ditch Scott, a “meathead” who “doesn’t belong in the National Hockey League.”

“This was bound to happen,” Milbury said. “This guy is a predator. He was put out there to seek and destroy.”

Scott said his line deserved the ice time.

“We had zone time, we were playing really well,” he said. “So to say he sends me out there just to hurt somebody is just asinine, is just completely false and not what happens at all.”

Then Scott started becoming a bit emotional and talking passionately.

“I’m a hockey player,” he said. “I go out there and I play my game. I’m physical, I hit. That’s my role. Like, I’m not going to score a million goals. I get frustrated when people say I’m a goon and this and that.

“I have a role, I do it. I go out and I’m physical. It’s unfortunate what happened last night. But to say that Ron sent me out there to do anything with any malcontent or anything is just completely false.”

Rolston, who’s skated Scott an average of 4:57 over seven appearances, added: “He’s been getting minutes the whole year.”

Scott said he didn’t know he had hit Eriksson’s head right away.

“I honest to God didn’t realize it was that bad of a hit, because I was in the (penalty) box, I was asking the ref, like, ‘Was it a head hit?’” Scott said. “I didn’t set out to do that. I knew something was going to happen, but I didn’t realize what happened.”

Scott’s suspended pending an in-person hearing. He got Eriksson’s number from Sabres co-captain Steve Ott, the Swede’s teammate in Dallas.

A woozy Eriksson left the game and stayed overnight in Buffalo for observation. The Bruins announced Thursday he’s out indefinitely with a concussion.

“I texted him and told him, ‘Sorry for the hit,’” Scott said. “I didn’t realize it was a hit to the head. So it was unfortunate.”

The hit on the 6-foot-2 Eriksson, which occurred after he had dished the puck in the neutral zone, “could’ve gone either way,” Scott said. Adam McQuaid immediately fought Scott, who was ejected.

“I was finishing my check,” Scott said. “He was leaning forward, so I definitely made contact with him. … Ten years ago, that would’ve been good. But now that’s the hit they’re getting out of the game. So I totally understand that.”

For those who want the 31-year-old Scott out of the game, Ott has a message.

“There’s definitely a place for him in the league,” Ott said. “I thought he had a strong game, one of his best nights I’ve seen him play. John’s a big individual for us, but in no instances does he have a previous record by any means, and he’s hard to play against. He keeps guys honest out there.”

Ott added: “He’s not a dirty player. Because he fights doesn’t make him a dirty player by any means. He’s doing a job out there for us, and he’s doing his job well.”

Scott also drew loads of criticism for chasing down Toronto star Phil Kessel during the preseason, igniting a brawl after teammate Corey Tropp was injured fighting.

Scott said he doesn’t know his hearing date.

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