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Tampa Bay Lightning coach Rick Tocchet: Eliminate instigator rule to control head hits

TAMPA — The league will study whether it should ban hits to the head. But Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said a better idea is eliminating the instigator rule, which penalizes players who intentionally start fights.

Tocchet said the rule protects players who take cheap shots knowing retaliation will be punished.

"Players out there know nothing can happen to them," Tocchet said. "Those are the guys who increase the percentage of head shots. I'd like to see the players control that. You have somebody out of control, then the player is going to have to pay the price."

Hits to the head have gotten a lot of publicity lately because of severe and, some would say, gratuitous blows taken by Tampa Bay D Victor Hedman and Florida's David Booth, among others.

Tocchet agreed the trend is alarming but also said that before the instigator rule, "if you ran around, you had to answer for it no matter what."

He used himself as an example:

"I kneed (Detroit hall of famer) Stevie Yzerman. Whether it was a questionable hit or not, bottom line is I got a five-minute major. I knew the next shift Joey Kocur was coming after me. I had to fight him. Nowadays, I don't know if that happens. That's why you get a lot of guys running around."

Lightning LW Ryan Malone is with Tocchet. He does not want automatic penalties on hits to the head — "If I'm leaning over reaching for the puck and put myself in that position, the first place on my body you're going to hit is my head" — and said the instigator rule should be eliminated.

"Guys will be more accountable," he said. "A guy would definitely think twice about maybe doing something if you know there's a guy on the other team who might beat him up for it."

LINEUP CHANGE: RW Paul Szczechura, called up from AHL Norfolk, played on various lines. F Ryan Craig was scratched.

HEDMAN STRUGGLES: Hedman played after missing one game because of a concussion and had perhaps his worst game.

"I didn't play at my highest level," he said.

Tocchet called him "discombobulated."

Hedman played 24:02 but struggled in his zone and was beaten on a rush by Minnesota C James Sheppard, which led to the Wild's first goal.

"I'll work hard for Saturday (against the Kings), and bring my A game back," Hedman said.

KARMA: After losing victories by giving up last-minute goals to the Devils and Sabres, it was nice to be on the other side of the equation against the Wild, C Steven Stamkos said:

"I was actually thinking that right when we scored. … It's about time we got one of those good bounces, so maybe a little bit of karma there."

ODDS AND ENDS: Trades in the works? Nine teams scouted the game. … Army 1st Lt. Brian Brennan, 25, of Riverview, who lost both legs in May 2008 in Afghanistan when his vehicle was bombed, dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The Lightning will collect nonperishable food items for Metropolitan Ministries on the St. Pete Times Forum Plaza before Saturday's game with the Kings. … Foster and defensemen Matt Smaby and Paul Ranger (personal) also were scratched.

Tampa Bay Lightning coach Rick Tocchet: Eliminate instigator rule to control head hits 11/12/09 [Last modified: Friday, November 13, 2009 9:03am]

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