Predators defenseman Shea Weber said, "Obviously, I feel bad (over injury to Wings defenseman Andreas Lilja). "I just wish him all the best." (Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Shea Weber almost grimaced when he was asked about Andreas Lilja Monday morning. He looked away, got fidgety, scratching his head with both hands.
Clearly, it bothers him deeply that Lilja hasn't played hockey since Weber pummeled him in a fight at Sommet Center Feb. 28.
"Obviously, I feel bad," said the talented Nashville defenseman. "It's a situation that just kind of happened on the ice, but you don't ever want anything bad like that to happen. Tempers flare and fights happen, but you definitely don't like to see that."
Weber, a rugged, physical player, is not a fighter by nature. The Lilja fight was only the ninth of his career, and he's only fought twice since (both last March). Despite averaging almost 24 minutes a game, he has only two minor penalties this season.
His anger toward Lilja came after Lilja had finished a check by grabbing him around the shoulder pads and throwing him to the ice. Weber stunned Lilja (not a fighter, either) with a right upper cut to the jaw and then finished him off with three or four other shots to the face.
Lilja suffered a concussion and the subsequent headaches and dizziness have kept him off the ice ever since.
"I just wish him all the best," Weber said. "I hope he can recover and come back and be the player he was before."
Weber was told that Lilja has made good progress since visiting a specialist in Vancouver and is expected to return to action at some point this season.
"That's great to hear," Weber said. "That's good news."
Coach Mike Babcock didn't mince words regarding the challenge that's in front of defenseman Derek Meech , who is being asked to replace the injured Niklas Kronwall (left knee).
"If you are Meech, you got an opportunity now for six weeks," Babcock said. "It's not about talking about it anymore. It's about doing it. Here's your opportunity, now let's see what happens."
Not only did Babcock pair Meech up with Brad Stuart , he's also entrusting him to play point on the second power-play unit.
"I am accustomed to that," Meech said of playing the point. "He's put me on the power play once in a while when we had guys down. But my main focus is just playing my game. The most important this is to stay consistent, stay within myself and just to the little things and keep the puck out of our end. It's going to be great to be able to get a rhythm."
The other pairings, at least for Monday, were Brian Rafalski with Brett Lebda and Nick Lidstrom with Jonathan Ericsson .
"This was just after one skate," Babcock said. "Obviously, it's a work in progress and we will figure it out. It's just like when I lost the forwards, it took a while to figure it out. It might here, too."
Laraque gets five games
Montreal's Georges Laraque was slapped with a five-game suspension by the NHL Monday for his knee-to-knee hit that sent Niklas Kronwall (left knee) to the injured list.
The five games is about what the Wings expected for the offense, but a suspension to Laraque does the Wings no good since the Canadiens play in the East. But, as Lidstrom said, the league needs to send a message.
"We have to get rid of plays like that," he said. "Clearly he was beaten and he was trying to stop him and he stuck his leg out. That's when guys get hurt "
By the numbers
2: Teams that Kris Draper has never scored against -- Florida and Atlanta
18: Shots fired by defenseman Brad Stuart in Montreal Saturday, 10 on goal
68: Total man games missed because of Wings injuries this season, including Monday