Ruff: Is it open season on goalies?

Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller makes a save on the Winnipeg Jets during the second period of...

Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller makes a save on the Winnipeg Jets during the second period of their NHL hockey game in Buffalo, New York last week. (REUTERS)

Chris Stevenson, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:23 PM ET

If you believe Lindy Ruff, hunting season just opened.

The Sabres coach said Monday morning if there was no suspension for Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic after he concussed Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller Saturday night, well, all hell could break loose.

On Monday afternoon, NHL vice-president for player safety Brendan Shanahan ruled there would be no further penalty for Lucic's crushing bodycheck, which has knocked Miller out indefinitely.

"If he isn't suspended, it just means that teams will be able to do exactly what Lucic did," Ruff said. "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 goaltender. You can run him whatever speed (Lucic) was going, he made no attempt to get out of the way.

"It means it's fair game on goaltenders again."

Shanahan spoke with Lucic over the phone and said he did not hear anything that led him to believe the hit was malicious.

"I had the hearing because I did make an initial assessment of the play as I do with all plays, but I did have some questions for Milan and I wanted to hear directly from him," Shanahan told NHL.com. "They were regarding his intent: At what point did he know there was going to be a collision; and whether he felt he had the time to avoid the collision. I was satisfied with his answers."

Well, I'm guessing Lucic wasn't going to say something like, "Oh, yeah, Shanny, I saw a chance to lay out that skinny goalie and I got him good. Oh, Shanny, you see his mask go flying? Ha, and not one of those Sabres even hit me with a pillow. Bet you wish you were still playing now, eh, Shanny?"

Lucic, who had put his head down to chase a puck into the Sabres zone, barrelled into Miller, who had come out into the right faceoff circle to clear the puck. Lucic was given a two-minute penalty for charging.

"The minor penalty called on the ice was the correct call," Shanahan said. "And, while it's unfortunate that Miller was hurt I saw nothing egregious about this hit that would elevate it to supplemental discipline."

The rules say goaltenders are not fair game. I agree with Ruff. Getting just a two-minute charging penalty hardly seems like a big enough penalty to pay for the chance to knock the other team's goaltender out of the game.

A guy can get two minutes for just brushing against a goaltender. After Shanahan's decision Monday, why not get the full two minutes worth and run him from the blue line when he's out of the net?

The Sabres, meanwhile, were still answering questions about not coming to Miller's defence after the hit.

"I told Ryan it's not going to happen again," Sabres forward Paul Gaustad said Monday as the Sabres readied to face the Montreal Canadiens.

Gaustad was on the ice when Miller was sent flying.

"I apologized and I stand behind Ryan 100% and so does this team. Like we said the other night, it was unacceptable, we've dealt with it as a team and we're going to move on and be a better team because of it."

It wasn't only Miller who got hurt. A couple of the game's codes took a hit, too, Gaustad said.

"Like quarterbacks or kickers, it's a position where they're not equipped to be hit by guys," he said. "It's a thing where you stay away from goalies. You respect that, just like on (an icing play) you respect not getting your stick tangled up with defencemen so they don't go feet-first into the boards.

"There are codes in hockey and one was broken the other night and, honestly, we broke one, as well. We didn't protect our goalie as well as we should have."

It will be interesting to see where we go from here.

The Sabres and Bruins meet in Buffalo Nov. 23.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


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