BOSTON -- The Montreal Canadiens are now questioning the viewpoint of a future Hall of Famer.
While Canadiens coach Jacques Martin said that he neither read nor heard the comments made by Boston Bruins veteran Mark Recchi that he thought the Montreal organization "embellished" the concussion suffered by Max Pacioretty on a hit by Zdeno Chara, his teammates were puzzled by them.
"We heard those comments yesterday," Montreal blueliner Paul Mara said Thursday morning in advance of the game between the Bruins and Canadiens at TD Garden. "A player with a broken vertebra and has been knocked out on the ice for 3 or 4 minutes, how do you question the integrity of a hockey team and that we're embellishing it? [It] is really questionable coming from a guy who's 42 years old and has been around the league for so long. He's entitled to his opinion and we're entitled to ours, but in Montreal we really know the truth."
The NHL did not punish Chara for his March 8 hit on Pacioretty, which left the Canadiens forward hospitalized with what the team called a cracked vertebra in his neck and a severe concussion. That decision caused an uproar in Montreal, where police launched a criminal probe into Chara's hit.
During a radio interview Wednesday afternoon on 98.5 The Sports Hub, Recchi stirred the pot further by sharing his opinion on the injury.
"He's OK and he's getting better," Recchi said of reports he's heard on Pacioretty's condition. "I mean we know he was at a movie, I mean he was twittering at a movie five days later ... and you know obviously if you have a bad concussion like this, you're not going to be at a movie. So we're glad in that sense that he's getting better, but it was a hockey play and the injury happened."
Recchi said he thought the Habs made more of Pacioretty's head injury -- an area the NHL has been cracking down on this season -- in an effort to get Chara suspended.
"Well, I mean, he does have a fractured vertebra but the concussion was really a non-factor. Maybe a day he felt it and then he was fine a couple days later, and I believe, yeah, they were trying to get Zdeno suspended and they embellished it a little bit," Recchi said. "I guess in terms of that side, you have to look at it and I guess they were trying to do what they could to get him suspended."
The Bruins did not hold a gameday skate Thursday and players were not available. The Canadiens, however, held an optional skate.
Montreal defenseman Hal Gill -- a former Bruin -- was asked about Recchi's comments, too.
"I don't have any thoughts on that," Gill said.
When pressed further about a veteran player like Recchi questioning the integrity of the Montreal organization, Gill responded by saying: "We had a player that was pretty seriously injured. If you're saying anything other than, 'I hope he's well and I hope he's getting better' then I don't have any time for it."
Martin said he expects a tight checking game from both clubs, solid goaltending and a race for the top spot in the Northeast Division. When asked for his take on Recchi's comments, Martin wouldn't get into a war of words with the Bruins organization.
"I haven't read Mark's comments. I don't read the media. I have enough responsibility with my team," Martin said. "I don't control what the opposition says and I know the importance of our game and that's all my focus is on.
"I haven't read the comments and I'm not going to start making comments on what other people say. Our responsibility as an organization is to be ready tonight and compete for tonight's game."
Thursday's matchup is the first between the Bruins and Canadiens since Chara hit Pacioretty into the partition between the benches in the waning seconds of the second period in a game at the Bell Centre on March 8.
"[Tonight's game is] a fight for the division between two teams that need points. It's going to be a close, tough battle," Gill said.
Joe McDonald and James Murphy cover the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.