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Wednesday, March 20
Updated: March 22, 12:08 AM ET
Knutsen taking death especially hard

Associated Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The hockey player whose deflected shot led to the death of a 13-year-old girl was distraught as his team returned to action Wednesday night.

"I think about it all the time," Espen Knutsen told reporters after a morning workout before the Columbus Blue Jackets' game against Minnesota. "I think about her family because I have family myself. It was just a horrible accident."

Columbus coach Dave King said all of the Blue Jackets are struggling with Brittanie Cecil's death, but that Knutsen, from Norway, was taking it especially hard.

"He's really upset about the whole thing," King said. "He was in the act of shooting the puck and it got deflected over the glass. That kind of thing happens. But, he's really distressed by it."

Brittanie was hit in the head by the deflected shot early in the second period of Columbus's home game against Calgary on Saturday.

"We all saw the incident on the ice," King said. "Most of the time you assume they'll be OK."

Brittanie was taken to Children's Hospital, where she died Monday from a rare injury to an artery that was damaged when her head snapped back, a coroner said Wednesday. The damage to the artery, which runs from the spine to the back of the brain, led to a "vicious cycle" of clotting in the artery and swelling of the brain, said Franklin County Coroner Brad Lewis, who performed the autopsy. He said the artery also might have been slightly torn.

Wednesday would have been Brittanie's 14th birthday.

The Blue Jackets beat the Wild 3-1 on Wednesday night in their first game since the death.

"It's always nice to win, but that tragedy that happened the other night is a lot more important than what happened here," forward Ray Whitney said. "I don't think it's something you just put out of your mind."

The Wild held a moment of silence in the girl's memory before the game, and Columbus will do the same Thursday night against Detroit. The Blue Jackets also placed Brittanie's initials on their helmets.

"It was great to have that moment of silence," King said. "I really thank the organization here for doing that -- it was certainly a classy thing to do."

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