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Kronwall, Babcock defend hit on Havlat

by Brian Compton /
CHICAGO -- Another series, another situation where the Detroit Red Wings find themselves in the center of a controversial hit.

Only this time, it's one of their players who delivered it.

With 6:52 remaining in the first period of Friday night's Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals, Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall delivered a thunderous check on Chicago Blackhawks forward Martin Havlat, knocking the latter out for a good two minutes. Kronwall, who appeared to have left his feet on the play, was handed a five-minute major for interference and a game misconduct.

"It was a fair hit, a good hit," Kronwall said. "I've made plays like that before. The puck was between (Havlat's) skates. I didn't leave my feet. It was a clean hit. I'd do the same thing again."

The Blackhawks didn't have much to say about it -- several players said they didn't see it -- although coach Joel Quenneville saw enough to believe the penalty was justified.

"I think it was the right call … he hadn't touched the puck," Quenneville said after his team made it a 2-1 series with a 4-3 overtime victory. "He left his feet. It was a tough hit.

"It's a dangerous hit when you haven't touched the puck. It's a hard hit and a dangerous hit."

Babcock -- who had a major problem with Anaheim Ducks forward Mike Brown following his hit on Jiri Hudler in the early stages of Round 2 -- defended his defenseman after Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals at the United Center.

Havlat, who leads the Blackhawks in postseason scoring with 15 points, did not return to the game.

"The puck came around the wall," Babcock explained. "Havlat had it in between his legs. Kronwall didn't leave his feet. He did it on the follow through. He just finished the check. He hit the guy fair and square.

"It takes one of your good players out of the game right off the hop. In my opinion, it was absolutely the wrong call. It was actually a good finish check. You never want to see a guy get hurt. That's not what this game is about at all. It's about playing hard."

Whether or not Kronwall receives a suspension for the hit remains to be seen, although Babcock isn't expecting the League to hand one down.

Canucks/Blackhawks Playoff Gear Blackhawks Gear Red Wings gear "I'd be absolutely shocked," Babcock said. "You know, I'm not allowed to say that. Players have bad games. Coaches have bad games. But they're not allowed to have bad calls or games."

Havlat's status for Game 4 on Sunday is unknown, although Quenneville is hopeful the skilled forward will be able to play. Chicago also lost goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin after the second period due to a lower-body injury.

"He looked better after the game," Quenneville said of Havlat. "We'll see how he presents tomorrow as well."

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