Wild's Foster happy new icing rule likely near

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 13, 2012 - 11:00 PM

The defenseman, who suffered a broken femur in 2008 during an icing situation,has campaigned for the NHL to adopt a safer regulation.

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Paramedics tended to injured Wild defenseman Kurtis Foster, bottom, after Foster collided with San Jose center Torrey Mitchell on March 19, 2008. Foster suffered a broken femur.

Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez, ASSOCIATED PRESS

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Few in the NHL were as happy as Kurtis Foster on Tuesday when the NHL general managers, pending ratification this summer, agreed to change from touch icing to hybrid icing in time for next season.

"It's one of those rules that not just me, but a lot of guys think isn't needed in the game," Foster said of touch icing, which forces the defending player to win a race to the end boards to cause a faceoff in the opposite zone.

Injuries don't happen often, but when they do, they're typically catastrophic.

In March 2008, Foster broke his left femur when pushed from behind by Torrey Mitchell in San Jose. Foster missed nearly a year.

Foster has long campaigned for the NHL transition to no-touch or hybrid icing, but after his injury, the league only implemented a penalty for unneeded and dangerous contact with the defending player. If you make an attempt for the puck, you're basically free of wrongdoing.

That's why Eric Nystrom wasn't disciplined for accidentally causing Edmonton rookie Taylor Fedun to break his femur during an exhibition game in Minnesota in September.

"[The rule change] is smart," said Nystrom, in town to play the Wild as a Dallas Star Tuesday. "If you get to the faceoff circle and a guy's not going to get [the puck], just blow it dead. Blowing it dead is so much better than that one injury that does happen."

The rule change won't be official until the GMs put forth a recommendation to the Competition Committee in June. That won't happen until the exact language is drafted because the league wants to eliminate gray areas it believes exist with the hybrid icing rule used in the NCAA and USHL. The Board of Governors will then have to officially approve the change.

It's a judgment call by the linesmen if the defending or attacking player gets to the faceoff dots first.

When Fedun broke his leg, Foster again made his voice heard that the time was now for change.

"I made sure to contact the [NHL Players' Association] and my union rep and whoever I could, like the media, to get it heated up again," Foster, a healthy scratch in three of the past five games, said. "I'm glad it's high on the agenda now.

"I'm lucky I'm still playing in the NHL. It's not going the way I want right now here, but I still get to come to the rink every day. To go through what I went through and still be here, I consider myself lucky."

Message sent

Winger Nick Johnson may have taken part in the NHL All-Star Game skills competition as a rookie, but Wild coach Mike Yeo feels his game has "slipped" and he scratched Johnson against the Stars.

"Urgency-wise, I'm glad that we have at least one extra player right now because that's what it's going to take to make sure we're holding guys accountable," Yeo said. "If you're going to be in the lineup, you better be giving us your best or else you won't be in the lineup or somebody else will be taking your position or your job or your role.

"I don't want to say we're making an example of him, but that's what it is right now. I didn't like his game last game."

Johnson is minus-9 the past nine games; minus-14 the past 16.

Etc.

Goalie Niklas Backstrom (groin) is getting closer to a return. He participated in Tuesday's morning skate although he didn't dress for a sixth consecutive game. Cal Clutterbuck (not feeling well) returned after missing three games.

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