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(Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE/Greg M. Cooper)
(Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE/Greg M. Cooper)

Ron Wilson: NHL needs 'to find a way to protect' its goalies Add to ...

It's an incident that has players and coaches talking around the league.

And after the Toronto Maple Leafs practice on Monday, coach Ron Wilson said it's a warning sign that the NHL should pay attention to.

Buffalo Sabres netminder Ryan Miller is out with a concussion after being hit by Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic in Saturday's game, a blow that spawned a war of words between the two players and their teammates.

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Wilson, whose own starting goalie, James Reimer, is also out with a head injury, is more concerned that those type of hits don't happen again.

"That was a pretty hard hit Millsy took there," said Wilson, who has coached Miller internationally with Team USA. "It'll be interesting to see the direction the league's going to go. There's no white papers out there to describe that kind of an injury or hit with regards to goaltenders. If it was a defenceman, you'd say that it was a clean hit.

"However, a goaltender's more or less defenceless in some of those situations. They're not wearing the same type of equipment, they're not built to absorb a 250-pound freight train running you over. Whereas a defenceman may. That's the debate that's going to go on in the next couple of days. Should we be protecting goaltenders?"



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Wilson went on to talk about Reimer's injury, which was suffered three weeks ago when Montreal Canadiens captain Brian Gionta made contact with his head while coming across the front of the crease.

Reimer has yet to return and continues to suffer concussion-like symptoms. Wilson declined to provide an update on his status.

"I wouldn't ever say that what Brian Gionta did with Reims was deliberate, but he got hit really hard," Wilson said. "I've seen a lot of goalies get hit hard this year. Remember Reims got hit on that play and two minutes later got run over by Travis Moen on a goal and [Reimer]hit his head on the crossbar on that one, too.

"So we've got to find a way to protect the most valuable asset on any team and that's the goalie. Not unlike the NFL [and quarterbacks] I don't watch the CFL much, but I assume they have similar rules with protecting quarterbacks."

The NHL revealed later in the afternoon that Lucic would not be suspended for his hit on Miller.

Notebook

- Wilson on who will start in goal Tuesday: "A goalie. He'll be wearing two pads. A mask. Probably with a Leafs logo on it. How's that?"

- After taking part in the full practice, Tim Connolly's getting very close to a return to the lineup from an upper-body injury, although he remains doubtful for Tuesday against the Phoenix Coyotes. Consider him probable for Thursday in Nashville.

- Wilson pointed out that "a minor injury" has been hampering Bozak in the faceoff dot, as he's dropped below 49 per cent after leading the team's regulars with 54.6 per cent last season. The Leafs have remained tight lipped on the injury, but Bozak's been battling a bad wrist since training camp.

- Dion Phaneuf missed practice, but Wilson said it was merely "a maintenance day." Because the team didn't practice Sunday, Phaneuf hasn't been on the ice since Saturday's game. He seemed fine in postgame interviews as well, so I don't imagine he's battling anything of significance.

- Wilson on facing the tight-checking Coyotes: "You're going to work hard for 60 minutes, you pretty much know that. They're very disciplined in their own end and the neutral zone and we've got to stick to our game plan and not veer off it or get frustrated... It can be a long night if you're turning pucks over, I can tell you that."

Follow on Twitter: @mirtle

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