Golden Knights’ Reaves plays antagonist with Sharks

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Steve Marcus

San Jose Sharks left wing Evander Kane (9) and Vegas Golden Knights right wing Ryan Reaves (75) fight in the third period during Game 3 of an NHL hockey first-round playoff series at T-Mobile Arena Sunday, April 14, 2019.

Published Mon, Apr 15, 2019 (3:06 p.m.)

Updated Mon, Apr 15, 2019 (5:05 p.m.)

Ryan Reaves has never been shy to share his opinions, and he proved Monday that future Hall of Famers aren’t off limits.

Reaves took aim at the San Jose Sharks at practice, firing pointed barbs at team legend Joe Thornton. Reaves was asked about Thornton’s hit to Vegas forward Tomas Nosek’s head in Game 3, a hit Thornton hand-waved as not a big deal.

Reaves saw it differently.

“I’ve got a buddy with a grandpa that’s going through the same thing. He can’t really see very well because he’s getting old,” Reaves said of the 39-year-old Thornton. “He’ll get some glasses or something, I don’t know. If he gets suspended, it’s going to be hard for him to see up top.”

Thornton was suspended one game by the Department of Player Safety on Monday evening. He will not play in Game 4 on Tuesday night.

The hit came in the second period, after Nosek cleared the puck from behind his own goal line. Thornton caught Nosek in the head with his shoulder as he went by and was flagged two minutes for an illegal check to the head.

“It’s gutless. It’s behind the play; it’s to the head,” Reaves said. “It’s everything we’re trying to get out of hockey.”

Reaves as San Jose’s antagonist is nothing new. He and forward Evander Kane have had a rivalry for years, and it was reignited this week after Kane called Reaves the Golden Knights’ babysitter and Reaves accused Kane of refusing to throw down with him.

It came to blows Sunday when the two dropped the gloves for the first fight of their career at the end of the game.

“It finally happened, eh?” Reaves said. “I just don’t like the guy.”

The physicality of the series was to be expected, and that Reaves is at the center of it is even less of a surprise. He led the league in hits with 305 in the regular season, and linemate William Carrier led the league with 5.1 hits per game. The two combined for 19 in Game 3.

Both teams like to throw their bodies into big checks, and combined with the blossoming rivalry between the two, emotions are high. Reaves said he and Kane had been chirping all night, and it didn’t help that Kane took a four-minute double-minor after inadvertently high-sticking Carrier earlier in the game.

Kane leads all players in the series with 23 penalty minutes, and Reaves is second with 15.

“It’s a physical series. Guys play hard and are frustrated, and those guys have been talking for 10 years,” Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant said.

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