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Kronwall forgives player for illegal hit

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
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SAN JOSE, Calif. – What’s it going to take to draw the ire of Niklas Kronwall?

Apparently something more than an illegal check that sent the Red Wings’ defenseman face-first into the boards Tuesday night in St. Louis.

Kronwall was very forgiving of Chris Stewart when asked if the Blues’ forward deserved a league suspension for the hit from behind that occurred in the first period at Scottrade Center.

“I think it's more accidental than anything,” said Kronwall, who was not seriously injured and later returned to the game after he was checked out by team trainers. “I think everyone knows he's not that kind of player. He's an honest, hard-working guy.”

But the NHL and Brendan Shanahan, its senior vice president of player safety, weren’t so forgiving of the hit, slapping Stewart with a three-game suspension on Wednesday.

Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and based on his average annual salary, Stewart will forfeit $46,621.62. The money will be donated to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.

Kronwall was injured as he chased down a loose puck along the half wall to the right of goalie Jimmy Howard. As Kronwall approached the half wall – about five-feet shy of it – Stewart barreled into the Wings’ defenseman from behind, pushing a defenseless Kronwall head-first into the boards. He needed helped off the ice, but did return for the second and third periods.

Stewart, who is a first-time offender, received a 5-minute major for checking from behind and a game-misconduct.
“I think it’s fair. Of course as much as he didn’t mean it, it could have turned out pretty bad,” said Kronwall when told by of the league’s decision. “Shanny has been doing a good job all year, so I think it’s fair.”

However, Kronwall even went as far as to shoulder some blame for Stewart’s indiscretions.

“I put myself in a little bit of a bad spot,” he said. “I think he was anticipating me doing something else. But it looked bad, absolutely.”

Already down a defenseman with Ian White back in Detroit with a fractured cheekbone, the Wings can ill-afford to lose Kronwall, who had a five-game point streak snapped Tuesday. He has four goals, three assists with a plus-1 rating, and has been a vital element to the Wings’ power play this season.

While Kronwall’s positioning near the boards helped lead to the huge collision, some of Kronwall's teammates feel the league needs to be more pro-active in eliminating these types of hits from the game.

“You have to pay the price when you do stuff like that. You don’t want to see a teammate get suspended for eight-games, but we have to get that out of the game,” Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg told “It’s not helping us; it’s not helping our cause. We have to come together as players and care about each other then we do. You can still play hard, and you can still play tough, but when players are in a vulnerable position like that, you have to let up.

“It was a dangerous hit. Thank God he’s OK and not hurt, but it could have been a lot worse.”

Wings forward Danny Cleary agreed with Zetterberg, but added that abolishing dangerous hits won’t happen overnight.

“It’s going to be hard to take it out of the players’ minds. It’s been too engrained to be physical,” Cleary said. “It happens so quickly out there, you have to be thinking so fast. I think it’s going to take some time.”

For Kronwall, who cringed at the sight of watching a replay of the hit, reminded him of why he never wishes to be on the receiving end of a hit like that ever again.

“Yeah, it just looked scary, you know?” he said. “I’m glad that it got the outcome that it did.”
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @RooseBill

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