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Hits and calls leave Ducks and Wings unhappy

by Eric Stephens /
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Hard hits and controversial calls in a wild Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals have spiced up a potentially classic playoff series between the last two Stanley Cup champions.

Now the gloves are off between the reigning champion Detroit Red Wings and the Anaheim Ducks, who won it all in 2007. Each team had its share of complaints following the Ducks’ 2-1 win Tuesday night at the Honda Center.

The rhetoric spilled over to Wednesday, with the Ducks unhappy about already-injured defenseman James Wisniewski being elbowed in the head by Detroit forward Tomas Holmstrom and Red Wings coach Mike Babcock still miffed about having the apparent game-tying goal with 64 seconds left waved off because of an early whistle.

The Ducks have a history with Holmstrom as the crease-crashing forward was on the receiving end of a hit to the head by Chris Pronger in the 2007 West finals that resulted in a one-game suspension for Pronger.

Following their optional workout Wednesday, the Ducks wondered aloud if Holmstrom’s elbow to Wisniewski was a dirty play after the defenseman was shaken up moments earlier when he was hit in the chest by a shot from the Red Wings’ Pavel Datsyuk.

"I don’t know if he meant to do it, but he comes around and smokes him in the face with his elbow," Ducks defenseman Ryan Whitney said. "I mean, it definitely wasn’t a clean blow.

"I can’t say he meant to elbow him either. It might have just been [where] he’s moving his arm. Yeah, [Wisniewski] had already got the puck so I think he was already probably pretty dazed. And then that [elbow] really kind of put him down."

Wisniewski went to the ice and remained there for several minutes before being carted off on a stretcher and taken to UCI Medical Center in Orange County, where he was released Wednesday after suffering a bruised lung.

Ducks coach Randy Carlyle was more blunt.

"What would you think if you were bottled over and gasping for air and then somebody gives you and elbow to the side of the head?" he said. "How would you feel about it?"

Holmstrom said he didn’t realize what had happened to Wisniewski as he was jostling for position with Ducks defenseman Scott Niedermayer late in the second period.

"I had no idea I hit him," he said. "I didn’t see him. I had no idea he was behind me. Like I said, I didn’t know. Unfortunately he got the elbow."

Babcock said the play was just symptomatic of a hard series being played out in which the NHL's two most recent champions are unwilling to give an inch.

"It’s like a rodeo after every whistle," he said. "There could be penalties after every single whistle. I don’t know how one play would be anything [different].

"If you think that Homer was saying, 'Oh, that guy got hurt on the play and now I’m going to elbow him in the head,’ … come on. That’s not how hockey is played. Let’s play the game, let’s play it hard."

Niedermayer was one of several players who said the series isn’t getting any chippier as it moves on, although he acknowledged that he got hit in the back of the neck by Detroit’s Johan Franzen in the final seconds.

As for the increasing number of head shots, Niedermayer tread lightly over the question.

"I’ve got a couple of answers, but I’ll stick with a boring one," the Ducks' captain said. "Everybody’s definitely responsible for what they're doing out there. You make decisions on how you’re going to act and carry yourself. A lot of things will happen.

"I haven’t seen what happened but if that’s what happened, you guys can judge how that individual carries himself."

Meanwhile, Babcock held firmly in his belief that Marian Hossa’s apparent tying goal on a scramble in front of Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller should have counted. Referee Brad Watson blew the play dead when he lost sight of the puck, which had trickled along the goal line under Hiller but was never covered up by the netminder.

"I’ve got to tell you one thing,” Babcock said as he began his news conference. "I usually bounce back pretty good. I was still bitter this morning. I have a hard time with the fact that you get two and they get two, how the game’s not still going on. OK?"

Not that his opinion matters to Carlyle.

Capitals/Penguins Playoff Gear Ducks Gear Red Wings gear "What's getting lost in this is if he deems it should be frozen, even if he doesn’t blow the whistle, if he deems it is frozen, in his mind the play is dead," the Ducks' coach said. "We got a break."

The Red Wings insist they’ve moved on.

"This time of year, it’s all about breaks and who gets them and who doesn't," said Detroit defenseman Brad Stuart, whose borderline interference penalty led to a power-play goal by Niedermayer. "Obviously we were the victim of couple of bad breaks and calls. But we’re over it. There's absolutely nothing we can do now.

"For us to not be over it already would be foolish on our part."

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