Ruff challenges Stars: ‘If you have to take a penalty to protect your goaltender, you take a penalty’

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The Dallas Stars didn’t react much after Nicklas Backstrom collided with Kari Lehtonen during Saturday’s 2-1 win at the American Airlines Center.

The next time someone contacts Lehtonen, though, it’ll likely draw a response.

That’s what Dallas head coach Lindy Ruff suggested in the wake of Saturday’s game, saying that while the hit on Lehtonen was blatant — “I put that one on the low end,” he explained — the Stars will need to do whatever it takes to protect him in the future.

“First and foremost, if you have to take a penalty to protect your goaltender, you take a penalty,” Ruff told the Dallas Morning News. “That’s really what it amounts to.

“Nobody takes liberties with your goaltender.”

Here’s the Lehtonen-Backstrom collision:

Ruff’s insight into this topic is interesting. Two seasons ago, while coaching in Buffalo, Ruff watched as Boston’s Milan Lucic bowled over Ryan Miller and wasn’t challenged by any Sabres skaters.

That incident seemed to unravel the team. Paul Gaustad said he was “embarrassed” by the club’s response while Ruff said “I didn’t feel we reacted well to it,” before suggesting if it was open season on goalies, “then let’s get at it.”

On Monday, he said much of the same to the Morning News.

“It doesn’t matter to me who is on the ice,” Ruff said, delivering maybe the most important message of the discussion. “If someone is taking advantage of your goaltender, you all respond…all five guys respond.”

Old school? Ruff was asked.

“Old school,” he said. “Everybody ropes, everybody rides.”