MONTREAL - Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau has a message for fans who don't want to see players injured by hits to the head in hockey.

''If you don't like it, don't come to the games,'' he said. ''I think players realize they could get hurt.

''They don't want to do it, but unless you've played and seen what goes on with the speed of the game, you're not going to be able to argue with it.''

Montreal fans planned to gather outside the Bell Centre before Tuesday night's game against Washington to protest the NHL's decision not to suspend Boston's Zdeno Chara for his hit on Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty last week. Chara took Pacioretty heavily into a stanchion, resulting in Pacioretty being knocked unconscious and taken to hospital with a serious concussion and fractured vertebra in his neck.

Boudreau questioned the motives of the protesters, saying they would likely not be so upset if it had been a Boston player who was injured.

''I don't want to get into a controversy, but what if that was (Montreal's) Hal Gill that hit (Boston's) David Krejci?'' he said. ''I don't think there would be a protest going on here today.''

Pacioretty hit his head on a stanchion holding up the glass that separates the players benches. The Capitals were alarmed at their skate Tuesday morning that no extra padding had been added to the stanchion.

The Bell Centre is one of six NHL rinks that have tempered glass around the boards instead of more flexible acrylic panes. They are to change over next season under a league plan announced this week to make arenas safer for players.

Caps veteran Mike Knuble called the Bell Centre ''a hard building to play in.''

''The glass is way too hard,'' he said. ''It's so heavy and it doesn't give.

"Your head is going off it and it doesn't give. I feel bad for the players who have to play here a lot.''

Boudreau also said centre Jason Arnott, who is out with an undisclosed injury, will miss at least the first three games of a six-game road trip scheduled to start here Tuesday and end in Montreal on March 26. Arnott has two goals and three assists in seven games since being acquired from New Jersey in a deadline deal Feb. 28.