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WATCH: Blackhawks Foligno Comments on Devils Smith Hit on Bedard; ‘He’s Going After Our Best Player’

Nick Foligno speaks to the hit the shelved Connor Bedard via Brendan Smith.

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(AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

It’s eight days later and Chicago Blackhawks forward Nick Foligno is still being asked about New Jersey Devils Brendan Smith’s hit on Connor Bedard.

By now you know the situation. Smith stepped up on Bedard with a clean hit as the rookie All-Star was making his way to a high-danger area in the Devils’ zone. Elbows tucked and feet planted, Smith caught a leaning Bedard with a huge hit that resulted in a broken jaw.

Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson commented after last week’s tilt that he thought it was a clean hit. Foligno was asked about it again on Saturday. Although he might agree with Richardson, he had his reasons for going after Smith following the hit that shelved Bedard for 6-8 weeks after surgery was required.

“You can argue it’s a clean hit,” Foligno claimed. However, it’s our best player. So he’s going after our best player. Right? And I think (Smith is) an honest player. I do. I have a ton of respect for him. He plays the game the right way. He targeted one of our players who was in a vulnerable spot at that time, and I’m watching it. I can see him sliding over to make a hit.”

Foligno explained there’s no ill will toward Smith. The veteran forward dropped the gloves with Smith to send a message. Foligno believes standing up for your teammates is part of the game. The 36-year-old explained that if the Hawks let something like that slide, suddenly the ice would become a lot bigger for the opposition. The veteran forward said in a reverse situation, the Devils would have done the same thing.

“I wonder what their reaction would be if we did that to (Jack) Hughes or anything, right?” Foligno said. “That’s the game within the game I was talking about. (There’s) no ill will towards Smith. He’s doing his job for his team, but we’re going to do the job for ours as well and back up our own. Especially a young kid who’s finding his way in the league and our star player. You gotta make sure he knows he feels protected and looked after. That’s all that is. It happened to be me, but it could have been any one of the guys who was chomping at the bit to get at him.”

Perhaps Smith helped Foligno out. The Hawks veteran forward ended up fracturing a finger against Smith. However, he signed a two-year, $9 million extension while on the sideline to heal. Not bad for a finger injury.

On Smith, it’s not the first time he’s been forced to answer the call following a big hit. He was in a similar situation against the New York Islanders back in November when he fought Anders Lee. However, Lee tried standing up for himself after Smith caught Lee clean with his head down. After the Isles captain approached him for some redemption, it ended in Lee leaking quite a bit of blood.

Whether he’s playing forward or defense, Smith’s certainly taken on a new role as a physical presence for the Devils this season. In fact, not only have the players around the league noticed Smith’s tendency to connect on a big hit, but Devils fans have come to appreciate the Devils hybrid for bringing an element New Jersey can lack at times.

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