After practice on Wednesday, Michael Bunting discussed the incident with Erik Cernak that led to his three-game suspension and Sheldon Keefe’s decision to keep him out of the lineup in Game 5.
What did you think when you heard the suspension was three games?
Bunting: They made their decision, and you have to live with it. There is not much more I can do. The play was unfortunate. I didn’t intend to hurt him or do that, but they made their decision.
I will just move on, put that in the past, and keep looking forward.
What did you see on the play?
Bunting: [Cernak] and I battle a lot. I have a lot of respect for him. He is a great defenseman. He plays hard. He plays the game right. We have butted heads a few times.
It is very unfortunate what happened. I never want to see someone get hurt and miss games.
I just tried to create space because I was kind of expecting contact from him. That time, he wasn’t going in for contact. The rest happened.
I never intend to hurt anyone out there. That is not my game. I have played over eight years and 500 games in pro. I’ve never had a suspension. That is not my game.
Did you reach out to Cernak after?
Bunting: I did. I sent him a text. I will leave that between him and me. I wish him the fastest recovery.
What was your reaction when you found out Sheldon Keefe is going to stick with his lineup?
Bunting: My job is to be a good teammate and be a professional in all aspects. That is what I intend on doing. I will just wait for my number to be called. I plan on helping this team win. I am hoping there are a lot more games to be played and that I’ll be in them.
That is what I plan on doing. For the time being, I want to be a great teammate, support the boys, and cheer them on as best as I can.
What was the explanation from the coach in the conversation about keeping you out of the lineup?
Bunting: I feel like that is just between Keefer and me.
I want to play. I want to be in the lineup. That is what I intend on doing in the future here. I want to be impactful. I want to play my game and do the things that helped our team make the playoffs. That is what I plan on doing.
This is a little adversity for me here, but I have conquered adversity my whole life and made it here. This is another day for me.
What have the emotions been like for you watching the series as it’s played out?
Bunting: Watching is stressful. It is very stressful up there not being able to have control of the game. It is almost worse. I am almost more nervous watching than playing.
The guys have responded great. Three in a row is unbelievable. I am just trying to be a great teammate, cheer the boys on, help the team in any way I can, and not be a distraction. That is what I plan on doing.
What has impressed you about what the team has done as you’ve been watching nervously from above?
Bunting: They have faced some adversity, especially in the last game when they were down 4-1. For that comeback, Matty scored a couple of big goals. The one goal was pretty good. It has been great how they have responded and put us in a good spot in the series.
Has anyone reached out to you to lift your spirits during the last little while?
Bunting: All of the boys have. I have been talking to a lot of the guys.
Jake Muzzin is a big part of this team still. He has been with me through this whole thing. He has been the voice in my head with the way he has been talking me through it. I can’t thank him enough.