Sabres: 'It's fair game on goaltenders'

November, 15, 2011
11/15/11
1:23
PM ET
BOSTON -- The Buffalo Sabres were outraged by the NHL’s ruling Monday that Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic would not be suspended for his collision with goaltender Ryan Miller during the Bruins’ 6-2 win on Saturday at TD Garden.

Lucic wasn’t suspended or fined for the play that reportedly left Miller with a concussion. The goaltender played another 25 minutes after the collision before he was removed at the start of the third period.

"It just means that teams will be able to do exactly what Lucic did," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff told reporters in Montreal. "Your goaltender can play the puck, we can run him over, we can hurt him and all you get is a two-minute minor penalty.

"That is essentially what that means -- you can concuss the other team's goalkeeper ... it means it's fair game on goaltenders again."

Meanwhile, the Bruins felt the league made the right decision.

“From our end of it we were convinced it wasn’t deliberate,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “We were hoping that was the decision that was going to be taken and it was.”

Lucic was not available for comment after the team’s morning skate on Tuesday.

Julien was asked what he thought of Ruff’s comments.

“It’s just talk and we’re certainly not going to get into that,” Julien said. “People get frustrated and people talk. You don’t hold those kinds of things against people like that because they’re entitled to their opinion and you just move along. We can’t react to everything that’s being said out there. Everybody has their own opinion and we’re just happy it was dealt with the way it was and we’re ready to move on.”

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask knows firsthand what can happen when a goalie decides to leave the crease and play the puck. He was involved in a play during his last start in Montreal when he decided to race a Canadiens forechecker to the puck. Rask was forced to dive and attempt to poke check the puck to avoid contact.

“You’ve got to be aware when you come out of the net to play the puck that somebody might collide with you,” Rask said. “Obviously, we haven’t taught ourselves to get hit, but still you have to be aware when it comes. It’s something that happens during a game sometimes, but you still have a lot of gear on and you’re not as mobile as the players, but you’ve just got to be ready.”

Rask said that he and fellow goaltender Tim Thomas have talked about the incident since Saturday and both are on the same page when it comes to that type of play.

“We’re not the best puck handlers in the league, so we have to focus on the puck not bouncing that much and trying to make the right play,” Rask said. “A lot of times you focus on the puck so much that you can’t see people coming at you.”

Rask was also asked his thoughts on Ruff’s comments about it being open season on goaltenders.

“No comment on that,” Rask said. “They can say whatever they want.

“As far as I’m concerned the rules haven’t changed. So we’ll still go by the same rules,” he added.

“Everybody knows (Lucic ‘s collision with Miller) was just an accident,” added Rask. “Everybody knows you don’t try to take a goalie’s head off or anything. Things happen in the game and it’s part of the game and sometimes accidents happen.”

Part of Rule 69 states: "A goalkeeper is not 'fair game' just because he is outside the goal crease. The appropriate penalty should be assessed in every case where an attacking player makes unnecessary contact with the goalkeeper. However, incidental contact will be permitted when the goalkeeper is in the act of playing the puck outside his goal crease provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such unnecessary contact."

Julien said he also believes goaltenders should not be touched. “I don’t think they should be hit -- absolutely not,” he said. “But there’s a difference between a hit and a collision and that’s always going to be a gray area in everybody’s minds. Some people are going to call it a hit, and some people are going to call it a collision. As a coach, I’ll abide to any rule they put in there. If they say you can’t touch them at all, then you can’t touch them at all. If they keep the rule the way it is, then let’s keep the rule the way it is.

“I know for a fact that if Milan had intended on hitting [Miller], he would have never got up,” added Julien. “We all know how hard he hits and that speaks for itself.”

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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