Brian Campbell is none too pleased with Niklas Kronwall.
Less than 24 hours after the Chicago Blackhawks saved their season with a 4-3 overtime win in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals at the United Center, the Blackhawks' defenseman fired some verbal jabs at Kronwall after the latter left Martin Havlat briefly unconscious on a controversial hit in the first period.
"I thought it was gutless all around," said Campbell, who is part of the NHL competition committee. "I thought he jumped. Marty didn't have the puck. His forearm came up high. He's done it hundreds of time in the League, and it seems like nothing ever happens. He could have easily come in and used his shoulder and hit him with the side, and it would have been fine. But instead he comes up and explodes with his fist and his forearms and jumps.
"I just don't understand it. We've talked about it, and eventually we've got to clamp down. These guys got to pay for it -- guys that are taking shots to the head. It's unacceptable and it's not like it's the first time it's happened with that guy. There's no need for it in this game."
Kronwall avoided returning fire. Instead, the 28-year-old defenseman was apologetic and hopeful that Havlat will be able to play Sunday. Havlat, who leads Chicago in postseason scoring with 15 points (5 goals, 10 assists), did not skate with the Blackhawks Saturday afternoon.
"It's unfortunate that he got hurt … it was scary to see him down like that," Kronwall said. "But the puck went off the wall and he went to pick it up. I stepped in and he never saw me coming, I guess. The puck was right there.
"He never saw me coming, so I think I would have felt the same way if somebody did that to one of my players. It's unfortunate that he got hurt. You never try to hurt anyone when you're out there. You just try to make a hit."
As for Campbell's remarks about Kronwall's "reputation", the defenseman opted to play defense.
"Everyone has the right to their own opinion," Kronwall said. "I think people that know me know that I never try to hurt anyone. It's unfortunate."
Campbell was asked if Kronwall should watch his back in Game 4.
"I don't know," he said. "I'm not sure what will happen with him, but I'm sure there won't be one check not finished on him. He could be the greatest guy in the world off the ice, but every time he hits, he jumps in the air."
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville wouldn't commit to a Havlat return in Game 4, but the Blackhawks are hopeful they'll have their leading scorer back. If Havlat can't play, Colin Fraser would be inserted into the lineup.
"I thought Marty really looked good today," Quenneville said. "Hopefully he progresses today in the same fashion for tomorrow. There's a chance he could play."
As for the hit, Quenneville's opinion didn't change after watching replays.
"It's a dangerous hit," he said. "He didn't touch the puck. The guy left his feet. It was a tough hit."
Detroit coach Mike Babcock's opinion didn't change, either.
"To me, that was a finished check. It wasn't a head shot," Babcock said. "I don't think he should be hunting anyone's head, I don't think he should be elbowing anyone in the head. But I also think it's a physical game. It's a contact sport. The puck was coming around the wall, he saw it coming, he turned and chose not to play it with his stick. Kronwall stepped up on him. That's a hockey hit."
Campbell's accusations left Babcock stunned.
"So far from being gutless, it's not even funny," he said. "He did it right. He didn't leave his feet. The puck was right in between the guy's feet. No way."
Whether or not the physical play in Game 4 will increase from Friday night remains to be seen. But if Saturday afternoon was any indication, it certainly won't decrease.
"I don't know if it's escalating or not, but I'm sure it's going to be physical out there," Kronwall said. "But if someone did that to one of my teammates, I'd feel the same way."
With no suspension handed down from the League Saturday, Kronwall is eager to get back to business in Game 4. The game misconduct penalty forced him to miss the final two periods of regulation and the quick overtime. Patrick Sharp
scored 1:52 into the extra session.
"He made it late, but it's happened … it's history already," Kronwall said of the penalty. "I thought it was harsh. From what I heard, he was OK when he left the rink. I really hope that he's OK and that he's back as soon as possible."
Contact Brian Compton at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author: Brian Compton | NHL.com Staff Writer