David Steckel still sorry for Crosby hit

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils center David Steckel remains remorseful and apologetic about his unintentional hit on Sidney Crosby that has contributed to the Pittsburgh Penguins center's extended absence with post-concussion symptoms.

Crosby hasn't played since Jan. 5, when he was hit head-first into the boards by Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman.

But before that, he had absorbed a blindside hit to the head from Steckel, then with the Washington Capitals, during the Jan. 1 Winter Classic outdoors game in Pittsburgh.

It is not known if Crosby will be able to return this season.

Steckel, though, has tried to move on.

"It was completely unintentional," Steckel said Friday. "I didn't mean to hit him at all. I tried to get out of the way. And it's unfortunate because I feel bad that he's been out for so long. It's one of those things that's obviously uncertain."

Steckel was traded Feb. 28 by the Capitals to the Devils for center Jason Arnott.

The Devils and Penguins will rekindle their Atlantic Division rivalry Friday night at Prudential Center, and Steckel said he doesn't know if there's going to be any leftover animosity from the Pittsburgh players.

"I've already played them twice [when I was] with Washington," Steckel said. "So it's gonna be what it's gonna be. I can't control that."

The next time the Capitals played the Penguins, on Feb. 6, Steckel dropped the gloves with Tim Wallace. Each received five minutes for fighting in the third period of the Capitals' 3-0 victory.

Steckel said he hasn't spoken with Crosby since the hit.

"I talked to [Penguins defenseman] Deryk Engelland after the game and I said, 'Tell Sid I'm really sorry. I didn't see him at all,' " Steckel said.

The two players collided during the second period of the Winter Classic game. The 6-foot-5 Steckel was rushing up the ice when he shouldered the 5-foot-11 Crosby, who had turned his head to watch the play develop.

"I didn't even know that I hit him," Steckel told the Washington Post after the game. "I was coming back with the 3-on-3 and when the puck went the other way I was facing one way and I came back joined the rush. I didn't even know it was him until I looked back."

Said Crosby: "I couldn't even tell you what happened. I think the puck was going the other way and I turned and the next thing I know, I am down. I can't really comment on it. It's pretty far behind the play. Maybe the refs didn't even see it. A lot of people didn't, but I don't know. Got in my head, that's for sure, but I don't even know how it developed."

Pengiuns goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has mixed feelings about the incident.

"It's tough to say. I think hockey happens fast. We all know it," he said Friday. "And sometimes you do stuff that you really don't wanna do, I guess, but at the end of the day, though, he's the guy that got our captain out for a while.

"We're not gonna go and the coach is not gonna send some guys to slash his neck or something like that, but I know every guy is gonna play hard on him in a legal way and I know that's gonna be how it is for him."

Former Devils and current Penguins winger Mike Rupp said Pittsburgh still has some animosity toward Steckel.

"I would say so," he said, according to the Bergen Record. "It's just to the point where we've got to win hockey games. We haven't have talked about it, but we're still without our driving force and we feel that."

Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.