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Was hit clean or gutless? It all depends on whom you ask
By Lindsey Willhite | Daily Herald Staff

Detroit Red Wings' Niklas Kronwall checks Chicago Blackhawks' Martin Havlat during the first period of Game 3 of the NHL hockey Western Conference finals in Chicago.

 

Associated Press

Detroit Red Wings' Niklas Kronwall checks Chicago Blackhawks' Martin Havlat during the first period of Game 3 of the NHL hockey Western Conference finals in Chicago.

 

Associated Press

Chicago Blackhawks' Martin Havlat lays on the ice after being checked by Detroit Red Wings' Niklas Kronwall during the first period of Game 3 of the NHL hockey Western Conference finals in Chicago.

 

Associated Press

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Published: 5/23/2009 12:23 AM

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Judging by how long and how prone Martin Havlat lay on the ice after getting leveled by Detroit's Niklas Kronwall early in Game 3 on Friday night, he'll never be able to summon a memory of the play.

If Havlat seeks opinions on the hit that cost Kronwall a five-minute interference penalty and a game misconduct, he'll discover remarkably divergent thoughts.

Unless, of course, it's possible for a hit to be "clean" and "gutless" at the same time.

"He hit the guy fair and square," said Detroit coach Mike Babcock.

Looking for the puck near the Hawks bench at the 13:08 mark of the first period, Havlat took a leading left forearm to the head and dropped to the ice against the boards.

After receiving several minutes of medical attention, Havlat needed help to get off the ice. He didn't return and Hawks coach Joel Quenneville termed him "day-to-day" for Game 4.

"I thought he didn't have control of the puck and didn't know where the puck was," said Hawks defenseman Brian Campbell. "I think it's pretty gutless to step up like that. For a guy like that going after Marty, that's something we don't like.

"You have to stay disciplined, but when we get the chance we're going to finish our licks on them."

Red Wings left wing Henrik Zetterberg, meanwhile, wondered why he was asked about the incident multiple times after the Hawks 4-3 overtime win.

"I heard their bench yelling, 'Heads up. Heads up,' and (Kronwall) steps up and hits him," Zetterberg said. "I haven't seen the replay, but I was on the ice and it looked like a clean hit."

Dustin Byfuglien raced over and pounded Kronwall into the boards seconds after the hit. While Kronwall fell on top of Havlat and everyone else skated to the scene, Havlat appeared unaware of his surroundings.

The Hawks couldn't improve on a 2-0 lead during their subsequent five-minute advantage, but the memory of Kronwall's hit lasted longer than the penalty.

"After that hit, it kind of sparked guys," said Hawks right wing Troy Brouwer. "We felt it was kind of a dirty hit, so that means we're going to start giving it to their star players and making it tough for them to play as well.

"It's one of those things where Marty's in a vulnerable situation - head down, kind of blindsided a little bit. Those kind of hits are tough. It's almost like a hit from behind - in the same category as that."

If the Hawks don't have Havlat for Game 4, that robs them of their top point-producer in the playoffs.

He set in motion Patrick Sharp's power-play tip-in that opened Friday night's scoring (though he didn't get an assist), then earned an assist on Andrew Ladd's goal to make it 2-0 less than 10 minutes into the game.