Blindsided again

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, EDMONTON SUN

, Last Updated: 12:39 PM ET

DETROIT AT NASHVILLE: Red Wings can move within a point of the Central Division leaders.

It was classic new NHL, and classic Colin Campbell.

In Detroit, Johan Franzen gets knocked cold and is out of the lineup for at least a week with a concussion after Willie Mitchell blindsided him with the puck nowhere in sight.

In Washington, five fights break out when the Caps take exception to an Atlanta cheap shot, and other than a minor cut, no one is the worse for wear.

A day later the Caps are hit with two suspensions and $30,000 in fines, while Mitchell gets a free pass.

Classic NHL: Punish the stuff that looks bad on ESPN, and ignore the stuff that ends careers.

We're not talking head shots, trying to ban those is a waste of energy. Puck carriers hunch over when they skate, so heads are always going to be at shoulder level. And if head shots were banned, nobody would be allowed to hit short guys like five-foot-seven Brian Gionta, and six-foot-seven Zdeno Chara wouldn't be allowed to hit anyone at all. If you don't want to get hit in the head, keep it up.

But cheap shots, late hits and hits from behind, all the stuff that Campbell seems so reluctant to punish, are another matter.

If the NHL is trying to get rid of enforcers, it needs to replace the protection they provided with stern discipline. Giving Mitchell two minutes doesn't qualify.

When a team tries to protect itself, like Washington, it's pounded with suspensions. If it doesn't, like Detroit, its players are scraped off the ice.

"If it's only going to be two minutes, I mean look at the seriousness of the injury it can cause,'' Chris Chelios told reporters in a still-angry Detroit dressing room.

"There was intent there. He knows it was late. You can do that every game if you want to.''

And who's to stop them, if enforcers can't, and Campbell won't?

I AM IRON MAN: Colorado's Karlis Skrastins, with the NHL's longest active consecutive games played streak (455 games), is closing in on the all-time ironman record for defencemen (Tim Horton's 486). He has no idea why he hasn't missed a game in over five seasons.

"People ask me and there is no right answer,'' said Skrastins, who has zero goals and zero assists.

"I don't think about it every day, but it's in the back of my mind. I'm not a big scorer, so at least I have one thing I can be proud of.''

GO WEST, YOUNG MEN: Teams from out East never look forward to their extended western road swings, but now, with the emergence of the Pacific Division, they hate them even more.

"In the old days it was a little easier because you could blow those teams out,'' said Wings goalie Chris Osgood. "Now they're really strong. You're playing Anaheim, San Jose, Edmonton and Calgary - if you come out that .500 you're doing a really good job.''

THE TOOTH HURTS: Earlier this week, 76ers guard Allan Iverson missed TWO games, after having a wisdom tooth removed. Meanwhile, Washington Caps captain Chris Clark had two teeth knocked out and his palate bone crushed by a shot. He didn't even go down, and continued his shift.

"There was no sense in laying on the ice,'' said Clark, who practised the next day with a cage on his helmet. "Laying on the ice wouldn't have made me feel any better.''

IT DOESN'T ADD UP: From the department of weird stats: Prior to Wednesday's 3-2 shootout win against Anaheim, the Avs had gone 0-6-1 when registering 38 shots or more. Their last nine games, meanwhile, were decided by one goal ... Carolina's Cory Stillman, just about recovered from off-season shoulder surgery, knows he's been injured way too long:They have a name plate on his seat in the press box.

MILD THINGS: Yesterday's Minnesota win over Phoenix was their first in regulation since Nov. 2. It's been a brutal month for the Wild, who started the season 9-1 before falling into their funk. First they lost Marian Gaborik to a groin injury and then hit the road for seven of eight games. Gaborik is still out, but they're back at home, where they are 9-1-1 this year, for eight of the next 10.

FIGHTING WORDS: Called them out, punked them out, describe it how you will, but Preds tough guy Darcy Hordichuk let Vancouver have it in the Tennessean this week: "That's a perfect example that Vancouver has no toughness over there. Guys like (Jordin Tootoo) and myself were running around and no one was really doing anything.''

What happens when the Canucks read this?

"I'm going to have to get in a fight the next game,'' he laughed. "But I'm ready for it. I need (PIMs).''


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