Call it a stick-up in NFL In first round, fighting is down, but penalties abound

TORONTO — TORONTO -- In the first two Stanley Cup playoff games between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto, there were nine high-sticking penalties, six cross-checking, 11 roughing, two each for slashing, boarding and elbowing, one game misconduct penalty, six 10-minute misconducts and the typical garden variety of hooking, holding and tripping calls.

But none for fighting.


And with the anti-fighting folks having their way these days, putting pressure on linesmen to quickly intervene in each confrontation, there's a slim chance of fisticuffs here tonight in Game 3, though the Leafs are expected to play braver than in their two losses in Detroit. Stick work should prevail, however, said Wings forward Keith Primeau, who tried in vain to exchange punches with Toronto's Mike Foligno in Game 2.

"Every time we were getting ready to do it, the linesmen jumped in," he said after yesterday's skate at Joe Louis Arena. The team left a few hours later for Toronto. Primeau is frustrated. It's not that he revels in fighting, but he agrees with the many, such as coach and general manager Bryan Murray, who say it goes a long way toward reducing the stick infractions.


"I think so," Primeau said. "As it is now, guys on both sides are taking cheap shots at will against the other team's offensive players, and that's totally uncalled for."

Wednesday night, referee Rob Shick called 40 penalties for 128 minutes in a three-hour game described as vicious by both coaches.

"There were a lot of sticks involved in the game," Murray said. "I like to believe that's not the way it's supposed to be. The use of the stick in the game is way overdone, and I don't think that's the way they play or the way we play.

"I believe fighting is a control agent in our game. I see the stick swinging, the hitting from behind, and there's no threat to the person doing it. If anybody goes after him, the officials jump in. And you can't fight anymore. The penalty is so harsh with the instigator rule.

"If there was fighting, if the guy had to answer the bell after doingsomething with the stick, I think you wouldn't have all the stick stuff."

Though Foligno, an ex-Red Wing, was trying to energize his team with physical play, two of his teammates known for their physical activities were notably quiet in the first two games. Wendel Clark did nothing to minimize his reputation as a player who performs well at home but is often missing in action on the road. And Rob Pearson, Toronto's penalty-minute leader this season, wanted nothing to do with Bob Probert.

"Did you see Pearson when Probie challenged him in the third period?" Shawn Burr asked. "If we were playing on Olympic-sized ice, he'd still be skating backward."

Clark was benched for much of the third period, and drew heavy criticism from the Toronto media for his poor performances.


Meantime, while Dino Ciccarelli was counting his welts, Murray was counting his healthy players. At least six Wings, he said, were suffering from wounds sustained directly from sticks. After Thursday's practice, many were wearing ice bags.

But only left wings Dallas Drake and Gerard Gallant remained questionable for tonight's game. Drake woke up with a sore knee, though he has no idea how he hurt it, and Gallant suffered a nasty charley horse.

So the Wings, preparing for a physical confrontation just in case, called up minor-league tough guy Jim Cummins from Adirondack.