Winnipeg Jets' Mathieu Perreault slams NHL player safety department for not punishing high hits

Winnipeg Jets forward Mathieu Perreault harshly criticized the NHL's Department of Player Safety on Thursday for not penalizing an elbow to the face he received from Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen on Tuesday.

“Player safety, my ass," Perreault told reporters via Sportsnet. "This is literally an elbow to the face to a guy that didn’t have the puck. I see him coming and I brace for a hit. It was a late hit, I didn’t even have the puck and he flicks his elbow to my face and they’re not going to do anything about it.”

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Virtanen's elbow came up on Perreault as the opponents collided while chasing the puck in the neutral zone. The puck, however, had been poke-checked away by Canucks defenseman Tyler Myers, leaving Perreault clearly without possession.

Perreault appeared visibly angry at on-ice officials for not calling a penalty immediately after the play, and his frustration has carried on long enough for him to threaten to use his own stick as a weapon next time an opponent hits him up high.

“I gotta take matters into my own hands next time this happens and I get to swing my stick across his forehead and I shouldn’t get suspended," Perreault said. "I don’t really know what to say. I can’t really protect myself there if the league isn’t going to protect me.“

Criticism from the Drummondville, Que., native comes just days after Edmonton Oilers forward Zack Kassian was suspended two games for retaliating against hits he viewed as predatory by Calgary's Matthew Tkachuk. In that case, Tkachuk's hits on Kassian were ruled clean by player safety, even as some former players also said they felt Tkachuk's hits were dirty. In this case, TSN's Darren Dregrer reported that the league's player safety department didn't rule the elbow as "forceful enough" to require supplemental discipline.

Virtanen told reporters on Thursday that he did not mean to elbow Perreault.

“I think it’s just frustration," Virtanen said via Sportsnet. "He’s a good player. I have nothing bad to say about him. I wasn’t trying to just go out and murder a guy."

“It could have been a lot worse if I really hit him. He’s a good player. I honestly didn’t even mean to do that," he added. "It is what it is. He can be frustrated. I mean, I think anyone would kind of be frustrated at that point.”

Perreault, who stands five feet and 10 inches tall, pointed out he is often the smallest player on the ice, making him a particularly at-risk target for high hits. He's not exactly a scrapper, either, having never collected more than 44 penalty minutes in any of his 11 NHL seasons. In his view, that leaves him only one option moving forward.

"The only thing I can do to defend myself is to use my stick," he said. "So the next guy that does that to me is going to get my f—ing stick and I better not get suspended for it."

Perreault reportedly walked back those comments on Friday and said his emotions got the best of him when he made those comments. While The Winnipeg Sun's Scott Billeck noted that the forward spoke to the league about the situation, Perreault said he still disagrees with the decision not to hand Virtanen supplemental discipline.