DETROIT - The San Jose Sharks have been skating hard to the net against the Red Wings, stopping just short of Jimmy Howard while delivering plenty of sprayed ice—the so-called hockey snow shower.
Are they bugging the Detroit goaltender?
"Nope," he insisted Tuesday.
Part of the game?
"Yep," Howard said. "They're just trying to get under my skin. I don't care. They can come in and pitchfork me all they want. They can do whatever they want. They're not going to take me off my game."
If Howard gets pitchforked—speared by the blade of a stick—the Sharks will get called for a penalty if the officials see it happen. If skate blades spray ice in Howard's face, well, he'll probably have to live with it.
The Red Wings have done some lobbying to get San Jose called for unsportsmanlike penalties for what has appeared to be gamesmanship in the Western Conference semifinal they trail 0-2. Game 3 is Wednesday night at Joe Louis Arena.
Sharks coach Todd McLellan said he is not pushing his players to rattle Howard with snow showers.
"I have no time for gimmicks and circus acts," McLellan said. "I will address it with my players. My feedback from them is that there's no intent. We are going to the blue paint. No one is going to take that away from us. We're going to stop in the blue paint and we're going to stand there.
"I guess we have to be a little more cautious about where we stop in the blue paint."
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said he told his players to focus on being disciplined and determined and not sweat the ice sprays.
"We have a general manager and he looks after that stuff," Babcock said.
The Sharks aren't apologizing for their actions, pointing out Howard has failed to secure pucks at times and that has created scoring opportunities in the crease that they've tried to take advantage of.
At the other end of the rink, the Red Wings might try to annoy Antti Niemi with similar tactics.
"Maybe we should start snow showering," Detroit forward Danny Cleary said. "The referees got to make a decision. We don't want them doing that. If you let them get away with it, they're going to do it again. So, you have to take liberties."
Niemi just hopes it doesn't happen when the puck is loose.
"If you can do it during the play, you can make the goalie blind for a second," he said.
Niemi, who helped Chicago win the Stanley Cup last year as a rookie, has seen and stopped a lot of pucks after opening the post-season with a shaky series.
He gave up only one goal in each of the first two games after giving up 19 in six starts against Los Angeles in the first round. Detroit had 59 shots in Games 1 and 2—both of which it lost 2-1—but wants to put more pucks and bodies in and around Niemi.
"He's a great goalie, but I don't think he's been tested enough," Red Wings defenceman Niklas Kronwall said.