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Faulty equipment can be a pain

by Michael Caples / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – In the NHL playoffs, a game can be decided by what players refer to as “a break”.  It could be the way the puck strikes a defenseman’s skate in front of his goal and finds the back of the net. It could be a player losing his balance and falling at the most inopportune time.

For Nicklas Lidstrom, it was his stick breaking on a slap shot late in Game 2. It’s something that happens in today’s NHL – the players’ composite sticks break frequently – but it happened at the worst time, and worst place on the ice, for the Wings’ captain.

During a 3-3 tie in the third period, Lidstrom reared back for a one-timer inside the San Jose blue line. Upon impact, Lidstrom’s stick snapped in half and propelled the puck right to San Jose forward Danny Heatley. With Lidstrom without a stick, and with his momentum carrying him in the wrong direction, the Sharks’ forwards raced ahead on a three-on-one opportunity. Jimmy Howard made the initial save on Heatley, but Joe Thornton was able to score the game-winning goal off of a rebound.

“(Lidstrom) was winding up for the slapper,” Heatley said of the play. “I saw his stick break and the puck lying there, so I just tried to poke it and get going. Didn’t know if it was going to be a two-on-one or a three-on-one until I looked up … and it worked out for us.”

The Sharks’ forward said it was nice to be on the receiving end of an errant play.

“No question,” Heatley said. “Some times the games are decided with a little break here or there, and little bounce here or there, and we got a good one there.”

As the series shifts back to Detroit, the Wings know they need to overcome the broken-stick incident.

“There’s not much you can do, there’s not much you can say,” Kronwall said. “It’s just a really bad break. Even from that, I thought Rafi played the three-on-one really well. (Heatley) didn’t really have any passing options whatsoever. Howie saved the puck, and it just went off Rafi’s leg and right to their guy. That’s the way the puck bounces some times, we just have to forget about that and look ahead.”

Lidstrom said he hasn’t been worrying about the strange play that cost the Wings Game 2.

“No, I didn’t lose some sleep over it,” the Wings’ captain said Tuesday morning. “I think that hasn’t happened to me in the past the way it did, but it’s just one of those things you have to put behind you and get ready for the next game.”

Forward Darren Helm said it was one of those plays where the players on the bench have a gut feeling that it will end badly for their team.

“When you see it happen … it’s the kind of play that bites you,” Helm said. “So you kind of had that feeling that it was going in, but you thought that Howie would come up with the big save like he usually does. He did come up with the big one, the first one, but then the lucky bounce, hits Rafi right in the foot, and Thornton scored. A lot of times you think it’s going to stay out of the net, but those are the bad breaks, and those are going to hurt you.”

Kronwall said players have learned to deal with equipment malfunctions, due to the physical nature of the game. The Wings’ defenseman broke his skate during a penalty-kill in San Jose on Feb. 2. Fortunately for Kronwall and the Wings, they earned a 4-2 win that day.

“There’s not much to think about, really,” Kronwall said. “It’s just a bad break. You can’t really get stuck in thinking too much.”

Kronwall also said that fans shouldn’t be pointing any fingers at equipment manager Paul Boyer when equipment breaks on the ice.

“Rarely is it his fault,” Kronwall said. “He doesn’t really have anything to do with that. He’s always looking over us, making sure we have all our gear intact, and making sure he’s staying on top of things.”

Forward Justin Abdelkader said that incidents with faulty equipment happen to all hockey players, no matter what league they’re playing in. The rookie forward recalled a skate problem he had while playing with the Wings’ AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids last season.

“My skate broke last year … on the other side of the rink,” Abdelkader said. “I had to kind of hobble over to the bench because my blade came off, that’s one thing that I remember last year, when I broke my steel and had to get over to the bench.”

Abdelkader hopes that the Wings might be on the fortunate end of a strange play as they try to even up the second-round series on home ice this week.

“It’s tough,” Abdelkader said of bad breaks for the Wings. “Obviously you don’t want that to happen, and nobody really expects it to, but it does. You just have to deal with it, and hopefully we’ll catch a few breaks down the stretch for ourselves.”

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