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Oilers weigh in on Lucic-Miller incident

by Ryan Dittrick / Edmonton Oilers
Buffalo's Ryan Miller & Boston's Milan Lucic engage in a shouting match following the hit on the Sabres netminder.

Edmonton, AB - On Saturday, Nov. 12 at TD Garden in Boston, Bruins winger Milan Lucic cranked Sabres netminder Ryan Miller with a dangerous open-ice hit.

The collision earned Lucic a charging minor and little else; no discipline from the NHL's side, no retribution or angered response from the Sabres, and no backing of the rulebook, to which the league cites in moments when laws are broken and a player's well-being is compromised.

Both happened.

Now Ryan Miller is out with a concussion, stemming from an illegal hit that never should have been delivered.

"The biggest thing is that a goalie's equipment isn't built to take hits," Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk said. "It's designed to stop pucks. That goes for our helmets, too."

Dubnyk, a now three-year and 60-game NHL veteran, has never been put into a situation where he's been in danger. Perhaps that's because the NHL's ongoing and unrelenting precedent of protecting goalies has strengthened in recent seasons, until this seemingly backwards step.

"In almost any situation where we come out to play the puck, we're going to be vulnerable; we're standing still and most likely not braced to be taking a hit, which is why we're not fair game," he said. "It's been that way for a long time and for our sake, I hope it stays like that."

In the wake of a hearing with the NHL's lead disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan Monday, Lucic was cleared to continue on without a suspension. Although he's not one to be spending too much time 180 feet from his own goal, Theo Peckham agreed with his goalie's assessment.

"I think [the NHL] said he didn't intend on hitting him, or at least hitting him in the head," he said. "A guy like me who hits a lot, I can't say that I agree. It makes you wonder, is it open season now on goalies? I thought he was going to come down on him pretty good, and he didn't end up getting anything. It's a tough situation.

"I respect any call the NHL makes and I agree with what they do," Peckham added. "But Miller is an elite goalie in this league. If he's out for a while, does that became a tactic in the NHL right now? I'm not saying guys will intentionally run goalies, and I certainly won't, but it makes you wonder."

Standing at 6'2" and weighing in at 235 pounds, Peckham delivered 196 hits last season to the lead the Oilers' contact parade. That's 44 more than second place Ryan Jones, who dished 152 in 10 more games (81) than No. 24.

Not a single one came against an opposing goalie, either. That's a good thing, too, because Peckham's body has been constructed to play that way. A goalie's, in all likelihood, is not and is never prepared to that degree.

"I think you show a little respect for the goalies," Peckham said. "Most of them aren't the thickest guys; you've got guys 230 pounds skating around out there and most are the goalies in the league are 170 pounds.

"Are you going to throw them to the wolves, and say if you come out of your net you're fair game? I don't think that's right. As long as we've known the game, goalies have been off-limits. That's the way I see it. As a defenceman who goes back to get pucks, I want my goalie to feel comfortable outside of the net playing the puck.

"I don't think they should be fair game."

With Peckham, Andy Sutton, Ladislav Smid and others patrolling the backend, Dubnyk admits he hasn't been concerned or especially vulnerable when coming out. A situation like this, however, could potentially change things.

"That's a pretty rare situation to see that happen," he said. "When you go out there to play the puck, you're looking to get there and do it which is what Miller was doing. You don't expect that to happen; you don't expect him to hit you.

"The problem is that we can go out there and we're not prepared to take a hit because we're not supposed to. That's where we become vulnerable and bad things can happen from there. I haven't been put in that situation in the NHL, but you start thinking about it when you see things like that happen."

In a situation such as this, where Lucic took dead-aim at the Sabres netminder, crushing him and sending the 31-year-old into a tailspin, you'd expect a response to arise to the victim's aide; sticks, gloves, helmets and bodies should have littered the rink, but nothing came of it.

Unless you expect subtle gestures and gloves-on shoves to send a message.

"I'm sure they were more worried about winning the game than getting into that," Peckham said of the Sabres' response. "Boston's also a really tough team. They might not have the bodies to be going off the ice, too.

"In a situation like that where your goalie gets run over, I think, even if you're going to get beat up, you're going to gain a lot of respect by jumping in there. If you get your nose broken, that's a badge of honour. There should have been some sort of response, but at the same time, I think [the Sabres] were more focused on gaining the power-play and getting on the scoreboard."

From top to bottom, hockey's unwritten code was tested with Saturday's incident; so, too, were Rules 42.3 and 69.2 of the NHL's bible.

-- Ryan Dittrick, - Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick


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