Jets’ Mathieu Perreault, ‘the smallest guy on the ice,’ vows retaliation after elbow to the face goes unpunished

Winnipeg Jets forward Mathieu Perreault was livid after the NHL decided against supplemental discipline for Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen following a hit in Tuesday night’s game.

Virtanen’s elbow got up in the head of Perreault away from the puck during the first period of their game in Winnipeg. No penalty was called on the play.

“Player safety, my ass,” Perreault said Thursday. “This is literally an elbow to the face to a guy that didn’t have the puck. I see him coming, I brace for a hit, it was a late hit. I never had the puck and he flicks his elbow to my face and they’re not going to do anything about it.

“Now I’ve got to take matters into my own hands next time this happens, and I get to swing my stick across his forehead and I shouldn’t get suspended then.”

The five-foot-10 Perreault, who suffered a concussion earlier this season from a hit by Philadelphia’s Joel Farabee that resulted in a three-game suspension, said his size could force him to use other methods to retaliate.

“I can’t really protect myself if the league’s not going to protect me,” Perreault said. “I’m the smallest guy on the ice, so I can’t really fight anybody. The only thing I can do to defend myself is use my stick. So the next guy that does that to me is going to get my (expletive) stick and I better not get suspended for it.”

Perreault suggested the six-foot-one Virtanen wasn’t concerned about the elbow because of his size advantage.

“He’s just taking on a smaller guy. If I was a bigger guy, he probably doesn’t do that because you know I can beat him up,” Perreault said.

Jets coach Paul Maurice also felt Virtanen deserved to be penalized.

“It’s disappointing, really disappointing,” he said.

“Because the head shots, I thought that one was … easy to see. I take these guys off the hook a little bit because some of these are hard to figure out, the timing of it. Players turn at the end. You hear them say the game happens fast, it happens so fast out there. I thought that one was an (easy) decision.”

The Canucks and Jets meet once more this season, March 15 in Vancouver.

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The Perreault-Virtanen incident marked the second time in the past week that tempers have flared following a clash between Canadian teams.

Zack Kassian of the Edmonton Oilers was suspended two games for a series of punches to Matthew Tkachuk as the Calgary Flames forward turtled to protect his head last Saturday. Earlier, Tkachuk rocked Kassian with two big and — according to the NHL — clean hits that twice sent Kassian’s helmet flying.

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