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Howard unhappy with hits on goalies

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Jimmy Howard fends off Canucks defenseman Alex Edler, who runs into the Red Wings' goalie during Wednesday's 4-2 loss at Vancouver. (Photo by Getty Images)
CALGARY, Alberta – Thursday’s morning skate was an optional for the Red Wings at the Scotiabank Saddledome, but that didn’t curtail discussion of Wednesday night’s incident involving goalie Jimmy Howard, who was bowled over by Vancouver’s Jannik Hansen early in the third period.

“Sometimes, as a goalie to make the save, you have to put yourself in a vulnerable position and the last thing you want to do is ring your head off of one of the posts or anything like that,” Howard said. “But you know, I’m a tough guy and I have no problem with guys going toward the net and trying to create scoring opportunities.”

The third-period play resulted in a Canucks’ goal, which was allowed to stand in the Wings’ 4-2 loss at Rogers Arena. Now, nobody in the Wings’ dressing room is suggesting that Hansen deserved a penalty, but at the very least, referees Marc Joannette and Tom Kowal should have waved off the goal by sighting incidental contact.

“The calls happen both ways,” Howard said. “We had some this year, or a couple of them, where it’s happened. You can see why calls are made, but then you see something like last night where you can see there should have been a little bit more, but it’s purely a judgment call out there.”

Contact with goalies has been a hot-button topic this year in the NHL, especially fueled by recent hits on Buffalo’s Ryan Miller and New York Islanders’ Al Montoya. Both veteran goalies suffered concussions as the result of being run over by opposing players.

Howard has already been run down a few times himself this season. But following Wednesday’s game, the Wings’ goalie voiced his disgust for what he called a lack of institutional protection for goaltenders, saying, “I'm just sick and tired of getting run over. It's every single game.”

Wings backup goalie Ty Conklin – who will get the start against the Flames – agrees with Howard. And while a penalty shouldn’t have been accessed to Hansen, the league should make a bigger deal out of goalie safety, and not subjecting them from being fodder for hard-charging forwards.

“I don’t think either of us thinks it was a penalty. It wasn’t a penalty,” Conklin said. “It’s not like he was calling for a penalty, but that kid comes sliding into the net, cut to the net, fell into Jimmy, and interferes with him trying to make the second save. I don’t think any of us are asking for a penalty, but I thought it should have been whistled down.”

Howard isn’t sure, one way or another, if it’s ‘open season’ on goaltenders, but he does acknowledge that some teams have tried to rattle him, similarly to what the San Jose Sharks tried to do last May in the Western Conference semifinals.

“Oh, yeah, probably most definitely, but that stuff really isn’t going to take me off of my game,” Howard said. “I haven’t seen anything that has really warranted real punishment, I mean, the guys are a lot stronger, a lot bigger, and a lot faster out there, and sometimes it just happens out there with the speed of the game.”

The Wings also learned Thursday that defenseman Niklas Kronwall will not be suspended nor fine by the league for his bone-crushing hit on Canucks forward Ryan Kesler just moments prior to Hansen’s hit on Howard.

Kronwall delivered one of his trademark body-checks on an unsuspecting Kesler, who skated with the puck along the half way. The first mistake that last year’s Selke Award winner made was to skate with his head down. His second miscue was dropping his gloves and trying to bait Kronwall into a fight.

“It didn’t look dirty to me. It looked like a good hit,” Conklin said. “From what I saw, (Kesler) got caught with his head down.”

Besides being cut under the right eye on the play, Kesler seemingly had his ego bruised, too, which is why he went after Kronwall with pugilistic intent. But Kronwall’s not a fighter, never has been, never will be.

“You see that around the league a lot more often now,” Howard said. “A guy throws a big hit and the next thing you know there are three guys coming in trying to protect a teammate, which all good for camaraderie, but I don’t think that every single time a big hit is thrown out there a guy needs to drop his gloves.”
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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