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Cullimore's hit raises Ruff's ire

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 18, 2002

TAMPA -- What appeared to be a clean hit by Lightning defenseman Jassen Cullimore on Sabres captain Stu Barnes ignited a controversy after Sunday's tie at 2 at the Ice Palace.

The hit came 1:30 in when Cullimore slammed Barnes into the end boards in the Lightning zone. Barnes' head hit the glass. Obviously dazed, Barnes fell head-first onto the ice, causing a concussion, opening a cut that required what the Sabres called "numerous stitches" and put him out for at least a week.

Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff called the hit "gutless."

"Stu's not very good after that gutless act," Ruff said. "The kid was defenseless. He just drilled his head into the Plexiglass. ... I thought the guy gave him an extra shot, and I thought the building showed a lot of class by putting it up on the jumbo screen."

Cullimore said he was sorry Barnes was hurt.

"I think it was a clean hit," Cullimore said. "I did not want to hurt him. It's just an unfortunate thing; you never want to see that happen."

Lightning coach John Tortorella agreed.

"He looked like he was out on his feet," he said. "Most of the damage happened when he hit the ice. ... There's nothing gutless about Jassen Cullimore.

"I hope he's okay," Tortorella said of Barnes.

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