DETROIT – Dany Heatley had some quiet time to himself during the first period of Wednesday night’s Game 3 at Joe Louis Arena.
Unfortunately, the San Jose forward probably couldn’t enjoy it with all that ringing in his ears, because at 11:34 in the first, Heatley discovered firsthand the definition of “Kronwalled.”
Nicklas Kronwall’s stadium-rocking hit on Heatley sent him into the Sharks’ designated “Quiet Room,” a league-mandated, lighting-controlled room where players who are suspected of suffering concussions are sent to recover and regain their composure. But no one likes to see a player seriously hurt. Fortunately, Heatley was cleared to play and headed back out on the ice before the end of the period.
“He’s fine,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said of Heatley. “He came back. It was a hell of a hit. It took a lot of courage to pick himself up and get off the ice. He came back and played admirably.”
Kronwall’s big hit could be construed as a bit of revenge for the Wings D-man. Late in the second period of Sunday’s game, Heatley knocked Kronwall off his feet in Detroit’s zone before Kronwall could see him coming. Kronwall didn’t look too shook up on the play, but it undoubtedly lingered in the defenseman’s memory.
And it’s hard to imagine that Kronwall wasn’t reminded of that very hit when he had Heatley in his crosshairs in Game 3.
The hit came as Heatley was chasing down a loose puck in the San Jose zone. He had his head down as he approached the puck. Kronwall raced past the blue line at full speed and connected with the unsuspecting Heatley, upending the Sharks forward and laying him out on the ice — an image that’s prime for ending up on a poster someday. Heatley stayed down for a few moments before getting up on his knees, thinking twice about skating away too soon. Play was stopped for the downed Heatley.
The fans loved it, of course. But in an age where concussions are becoming a major issue at the forefront of the NHL, highlight-reel hits like these will be analyzed. Replays showed that there was no direct contact to the head. Rather, Kronwall hit Heatley around his shoulders, making clean contact. However, Kronwall did leave his feet to make the hit, which is illegal according to NHL rules. Despite McLellan calling it a “hell of a hit,” whether the league will take disciplinary action is yet to be seen.
Still, Kronwall’s hit was a major boost in a close Game 3 that nevertheless saw the Wings lose in overtime to go down 0-3 in the Western Conference semifinals series. Shaking up Heatley — who still managed to play over 20 minutes — was a definite blow to the Sharks, who seemed to be outmatched for most of the game.
“Obviously he’s a big piece of our team and he’s important for us,” Sharks forward Joe Pavelski said. “He definitely fills the lines out when he’s in. There’s probably going to be injuries sometime throughout the playoffs. There’s going to be big hits, we understand that. We had a few, they had a few. But it was definitely good to see him come back.”