Hawks laugh off Kesler's 'coward' shot

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- Chicago Blackhawks winger Andrew Ladd said his team had a ''good laugh'' upon learning Vancouver Canucks center Ryan Kesler called Ladd a "coward."

Ladd and Kesler had a short fight on Saturday during the Canucks' 5-1 win. Ladd landed a punch to Kesler's face, and Kesler wrestled Ladd to the ice.

"We all had a pretty good laugh at it," Ladd said after practice on Monday. "It's pretty tough to take, I guess, when we square off and he takes one shot [to the face] and decides to bail on the fight."

The bad blood goes back to last year's playoffs when Kesler claims Ladd cross-checked him in the face when he wasn't looking, and broke his nose.

"He's a coward, he'll always be a coward," Kesler told the Vancouver Sun. "At least he was man enough to hit me when I was looking this time. He cross-checked me in the face [last year] and broke my nose when I wasn't looking."

That wasn't the way Ladd remembered the incidents.

"I think anyone that has seen me in both videos can make their own conclusion after [seeing] both," Ladd said. "The first one, we kind of ran into each other and he took the worst of it. That's too bad, but I'm not going to lose any sleep about it.

"This last one was pretty obvious. We squared off, [he] took a shot, and didn't want to fight anymore."

Ladd's teammates were having a good time about the whole episode, but quickly came to his defense.

"I highly disagree with the comment," Colin Fraser said. "It was man on man, one on one, they faced each other fair and square, and he took one punch and decided he didn't want to fight anymore, so he dumped Laddy. To sit there and call him a coward is beyond me."

"I don't know what he did to be a coward," Patrick Sharp said. "He squared off and fought.

"That's pretty honorable to me, so you'd have to ask the person that made those comments what he means by it. I've played with Ladd. He's a good teammate of mine. I definitely don't think he's a coward, that's for sure."

When asked if it was a "punk" thing to say about someone, Dustin Byfuglien said: "He is a little punk. That's what it is. Ladd obviously got the better part of that thing. He can say what he wants, and Ladd can take care of himself."

Ladd seemed surprised that Kesler was still thinking about the playoff incident. The teams have played twice before Saturday night and nothing had gone down.

"I guess he was really holding on to that one," Ladd said."I'm a pretty honest player. I play the game hard and fair, and if he wants to whine about it, go ahead ... I guess he was saving that one for a big radio interview or whatever."

The comment just added to an already growing rivalry. Players on both sides admit there's a little more animosity between them than with most opponents. Expect that animosity to continue when the teams meet again on March 5 in Chicago, and perhaps again in the playoffs. For now, Ladd will have to take some ribbing from his teammates.

"It's something he's going to have to put up with for a while," Byfuglien said. "It's a funny thing, and we'll have some fun with it."


Cristobal Huet will start in goal on Tuesday in Edmonton.
Brent Sopel and Niklas Hjalmarsson both skipped practice but Joel Quenneville described them as "fine."