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NHL suspends Pronger for Game 4

by Staff Writer / Detroit Red Wings
By Bill Roose

Holmstrom needed help off the ice after the hit from behind by Pronger and Rob Niedermayer.
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Star defenseman Chris Pronger will serve a one-game suspension for his role in a hit to Red Wings forward Tomas Holmstrom -- and the Ducks are steaming.

Pronger will miss Game 4 of the Western Conference finals, which is Thursday at Honda Center.

Pronger wasn't available to the media following the Ducks' Wednesday morning practice, but Brian Burke, the team's executive vice president and general manager doesn't believe the punishment fits the crime.

"Our view of the hit is that there shouldn't have been a suspension," Burke said. "The player wasn't injured. He finished the game. He got a couple of stitches, which would have been preventable if his helmet was properly attached. That's not a shot at Detroit. I appreciate the way they handled this, I do.

"That being said, I can't support the decision."

Holmstrom, who had two goals and an assist in the Wings' 5-0 win in Game 3 on Tuesday, left the game at 11:40 of the second period after Pronger and Rob Niedermayer simultaneously ran him into the boards. The Detroit forward, who lost the puck just before he was hit, was down on the ice for several moments before the team's trainers helped him to the locker room.

Asked if Pronger's hit warranted a suspension, Wings coach Mike Babcock said, "everybody saw it. He's got cuts, he's got 13 stitches. It's not like it's a boo-boo."

Holmstrom returned to start the third period and assisted on Valtteri Filppula's goal -- Detroit's final goal of the game.

Niedermayer was given a five-minute major for boarding and was ejected.

"I was very surprised about the call," he said. "All I did was take a few strides, finish my check and hit him with my shoulder."

Pronger, along with teammate Scott Niedermayer and Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom are finalists for this year's Norris Trophy.

Following Wednesday's practice, Scott Niedermayer questioned why the league would suspend Pronger when the referees saw it differently.

"My brother got the penalty," Scott Niedermayer said. "They're talking to Chris now. Anybody else they want to bring in? Maybe they should talk to Holmstrom, as well.

"The call last night was five-minutes to Rob Niedermayer. Today they're talking to Chris. Does that make sense to anybody?"

Burke concluded that Pronger, who is 6-foot-6, never raised his stick above his shoulders when delivering the hit on Holmstrom, who is 5-foot-11.

"You're talking about a player that is 6-6 and his arms never go above his shoulders," Burke said. "He's not head-hunting there. I think the hit was to the shoulders and rode up when (Holmstrom) stopped. Did it end up as a head-shot? Yes, I have to concede that. But I don't think that's how it started out. I think Robbie pinning the guy changed the quality of the whole hit."

Holmstrom said he hadn't seen a replay of the hit, but was mixed about the punishment.

"One game. It's there decision. What can I do about it," he said. "Who knows? If I get a concussion or can't play any more in the series, maybe it's more. That was probably fortunate for him."

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