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Holland on hits, Howard, Wings' playoff hopes

by Mike G. Morreale
BOCA RATON, Fla. – The Detroit Red Wings are in an unusual spot with only 16 regular-season games remaining -- on the outside looking in.

A loss to the Calgary Flames Tuesday knocked the Red Wings into ninth place in the Western Conference playoff standings -- one point behind those same Flames.

Prior to shifting his focus on his team, Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland was kept busy this week during the NHL General Managers meetings at the Boca Raton Resort & Club. He was part of the eight-man committee assigned to review video and research data on head shots in order to make a recommendation to the League Wednesday.

Holland spoke to about his role in banning illegal hits, Wings rookie goalie Jimmy Howard and his team coming down the stretch.
How do you stand on the issue of head shots?

Holland: I've gone on record going back 12-to-18 months. I think that given the size of today's players and the speed they're going, that if a player is in a vulnerable position, it's not a free shot to hit somebody in the head. I haven't changed my opinion in a year. The eight of us feel that something needs to be done to protect heads on blindside hits. We've got our thoughts and recommendations. But ultimately, you want to take it to the group and see what everyone thinks.
Are you at all surprised with the play of goalie Jimmy Howard?

The only thing that surprises me is his workload. He's in there every night, but he's played at a level that's made it harder not to put him in there. Coach (Mike) Babcock and the coaches keep looking for opportunities to put Chris Osgood in. But Jimmy Howard, based on where we've sat in the standings all year long, has been the goalie of choice. In the end, you put the goalie in that gives you the best chance to win that night and Jimmy's play has been more of a reflection of how well he's played versus a reflection of Chris Osgood. Take out three or four games and he might be in the top 5 in save percentage and goals-against average. He's been a big story for us.
Do you feel confident about your team down the stretch?

For the first 60 games, we hung around the race, but we had a lot of injuries. Obviously we'd like to have more wins. But I guess the worse-case scenario is, there are 16 games to go and we're right there. There have been lots of examples since we've come out of work stoppage of teams finishing in the 6-7-8 hole and going for long playoff runs. Pittsburgh would be Example A from last year and Anaheim and Edmonton are also great examples in the past. We're only going to get in if we play our way in, we can't back door it now. We have 16 to go and we're going to have to win a lot more than we lose. If we play our way in, it's anyone's game.
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