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Alex Edler suspended two games for running Mike Smith

By Chris Peters | Hockey Writer

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The department of player safety announced that Vancouver Canucks defenseman Alexander Edler has been suspended two games for charging Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith.

The incident occurred during the second period of Thursday night's 2-1 Vancouver win. Smith, who was retrieving a puck behind the net when Edler ran him over, had to leave the game after the hit and was replaced by Jason LaBarbera, who allowed the game-winning goal in the third period. Smith did not practice Friday and head coach Dave Tippett has listed him as day-to-day.

This is the second time in about a year that Smith has been hit while retrieving a puck behind the net. Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw was suspended three games after charging Smith during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Like in the incident with Shaw, the onus is on Edler to avoid making contact with Smith if possible. It is clear in this case he made no effort to avoid the hit even if there was no malice involved. Since this was a completely avoidable hit, the suspension had to be a fairly easy call for Brendan Shanahan and company.

After Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic famously bowled over Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller during a 2011 game, the NHL took more strides within the rules to protect the goaltenders. The guys with the big pads may look well protected, but when outside the crease, they can be vulnerable.

Consider also the value of a goaltender to his team and the scarcity of suitable replacements. The league has a responsibility to protect all players, but like quarterbacks in football, there's no harm in a little extra protection for the netminder.

The department of player safety actually released a video earlier this year going into great detail as to what types of contact on goaltenders constitutes a suspendable infraction and what doesn't.

However, there still tends to be confusion when it comes to player discipline, as the recently-suspended Joffrey Lupul tweeted Friday. While there is plenty of gray area in a lot of these infractions, there's less when it comes to goaltenders.

That said, Lupul's frustration is warranted. Shanahan's debut season was met with controversy, but not to the degree seen this year. The inconsistency in decisions and some of the lighter-than-expected suspensions has alarmed the media, fans and obviously some players.

It looks like Shanahan got this one right, at least, but the increased haziness of the disciplinary decisions this season could bring even more scrutiny to every decision going forward.

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