Consider tensions escalated between the seemingly bitter rivals in Detroit and Pittsburgh. Familiarity breeds contempt for sure, but the two teams saw business pick up a bit in their pre-season game last night when Pittsburgh’s Brooks Orpik connected with a knee-on-knee collision with Red Wings forward Johan Franzen. The hit resulted in Franzen getting a “charley horse” and leaving the game, meanwhile Orpik got in a fight with Todd Bertuzzi after the hit and received a five-minute major for kneeing and a game misconduct.
Understandably, the Red Wings are a bit upset in the wake of things as the hit came on the same knee Franzen had operated on last year and Johan Franzen is speaking out the loudest.
“It’s terrible,” Franzen said. “Stupidest play I ever seen. He lifted his foot up and put his knee inside of my leg…. I just put the puck back down deep and was trying to go get it, and he threw his knee out.”
Franzen, 30, didn’t skate today. He said he hoped to skate in the next day or two.
Does Orpik deserve to be suspended?
“Yeah,” Franzen said.
To be fair to Brooks Orpik, he doesn’t have a history of knee-hunting plays the way some players in the past have had (Derian Hatcher and Bryan Marchment come to mind immediately). Orpik does have one black mark on his record when back in 2006 he had an ugly hit from behind on Hurricanes forward Erik Cole, a hit that broke Cole’s neck.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock put things in a little bit or perspective, one that will likely drive Pens fans crazy.
“It’s one of those things in the league we’d like to look after each other’s knees. To me, that’s uncalled for,” Babcock said. “Obviously, I didn’t think it was a very good hit. I don’t think they’d be happy if one of our guys did that to Sid (Crosby) or (Evgeni) Malkin.”
The Penguins have been on the wrong side of knee-on-knee hits before, most notably with former defenseman Sergei Gonchar. Orpik’s hit wasn’t the only knee-on-knee incident last night and it won’t be the last. If Franzen’s only going to be off his skates for a day or two, the reaction comes off looking hyperbolic, but the action is what should be punished.
The only problem with doing that is that there was no TV coverage of last night’s game. Good luck getting anyone from the NHL to make a decision based on wildly biased reports from each side. Don’t expect the fans to keep it civil either. Asking for peace amongst fans of the Penguins and Red Wings, however, might be like asking for cats and dogs to knock it off, however.