RALEIGH, N.C. -- A topic in both locker rooms after Carolina and the Penguins had their morning skates yesterday at RBC Center stemmed from the other NHL playoff series.
In the first period of Chicago's 4-3 overtime victory against Detroit in Game 3 of the Western Conference final Friday night, Blackhawks winger Martin Havlat was digging the puck out of his skates along the boards when Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall delivered a huge hit that apparently knocked Havlat unconscious. Kronwall received a major interference penalty and a game-misconduct.
"I don't know if I necessarily like the call of him getting kicked out of the game," said Hurricanes playoff penalty-minutes leader Ryan Bayda. "It's a tough play for a defenseman. The puck was coming around the boards, and it kind of took a funny bounce. I would say it was a clean hit."
Hard-nosed Carolina winger Scott Walker winced at the thought of a scrum of players converging on Kronwall while Havlat lay at their skates.
"It's happened many a time. That's the unfortunate part. It's dangerous," Walker said. "We talked about that -- how do you change it? You want to come in to defend your teammate, but he's in a helpless position."
Guarding against such injuries is problematic, Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice said.
"Making those decisions on how to eliminate the result is a very, very difficult problem that we have in our game," he said. "Hitting is a good thing. I don't think there was any intent other than the hit. But the result, nobody wants to see that. How does that change? I don't have an answer for it."
Penguins hard-hitting defenseman Brooks Orpik and center Sidney Crosby agreed it looked like a hit within the rules because Kronwall didn't leave his feet before impact.
"I think the more times you saw it, the more legal it looked," Orpik said. "I think [Kronwall] comes off the ice after he hits him. I think the call was based more on the result of the hit, the injury."
Crosby agrees with the NHL's crackdown on hits to the head but isn't sure this hit falls within that definition.
"Kronwall is known for catching guys like that," he said. "It's a pretty tough call at that speed. It could have gone either way. The puck kind of got caught in [Havlat's] feet.
"It's scary, especially when you have him coming down on you, a guy who's experienced at doing that. He times it well. He can skate. He gets to those areas to make those plays."
Bayda had his own discipline to talk about. He was fined but not suspended by the NHL, after he got into a high-stick exchange with Penguins defenseman Kris Letang late in Game 2 and received a match penalty.
"I think they made the right call," Bayda said. "I don't know if it would have been worthy of a suspension. I got the $2,500 fine. That still kind of stings a little bit, but ... it's better than [missing] the game."
Bayda does not know Letang, who has declined to discuss the incident.
"It was an icing," Bayda said. "I wasn't aware it was an icing. I didn't hear a whistle. I just finished my check, and then he came back at me and I just put my stick up. I don't know if I got him in the head or what, and it was kind of a melee from there with some scrums and two fights."
The Hurricanes trailed at that point, 6-4, and lost, 7-4. Bayda wanted to send a message -- not so much to the Penguins going into Game 3 last night but to underscore Carolina's frustration.
"It showed a little bit that we were [ticked] off and weren't happy with the way the outcome of the game was going," Bayda said.
Carolina winger Tuomo Ruutu returned to the lineup. He missed Game 2 and most of Game 1 after a hit by Penguins defenseman Mark Eaton left him with an injured leg or ankle.
Ruutu skated a little on his own, then with the team in the morning skate and later took the pregame warmup. Maurice said the swelling was down.
Shelly Anderson can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1721.