If Detroit were a small town, a visitor might expect to see a sign in the vein of, "Welcome to Detroit, Home of the Fighting Goaltenders."

All three of the Red Wings' goalies have been involved in unpleasant confrontations this season, with Greg Stefan the undisputed champion of disciplinary attention, having sat out 14 games on suspension.

Stefan missed the first eight games as an aftermath of a playoff incident in April, when he used his stick on Chicago's Al Secord. Then, on Dec. 4, he committed a similar assault on Pittsburgh's Dan Frawley. Although Stefan was given only a major and a 10-minute misconduct and finished the game, he was suspended for six games after Brian O'Neill, the NHL's executive vice president, saw the incident on film.

Oddly, Stefan is the only one of the three not ejected from a game this season. Ed Mio was bounced from the Jan. 13 game with Toronto that precipitated Coach Brad Park's six-game suspension, even though Mio didn't play that night. Mio left the bench to join an all-hands brawl and was given a major and a game misconduct.

Mark LaForest received a minor, major and game misconduct when he raced the length of the ice to attack Quebec goalie Clint Malarchuk during a battle involving all the players on the ice Jan. 4.

The combined penalties of the Red Wings' goalies barely top the 46 minutes of the leading NHL goalie in penalty time, Dan Bouchard of Winnipeg.

The lowlight of Bouchard's season was a match penalty meted out in a Jan. 7 game against Vancouver, when he twice tried to kick Brent Peterson in the head.

The violence involving goaltenders got its start this season on the second day of play when Brian Hayward of Winnipeg and Marc D'Amour of Calgary were ejected as a consequence of a bench-clearing brawl.

Rule 32 (h) prescribes an automatic minor penalty and a $100 fine for any goaltender leaving the immediate vicinity of his crease during an altercation. Obviously, that has not been much of a deterrent.

The problem is the increasing amount of traffic in front of the crease, with most offensive players trying to bump the goaltender whenever they themselves are shoved by a defenseman -- and some with no excuse whatever.

"The goaltenders are just trying to survive in some cases," said Washington Coach Bryan Murray. "They get a lot of traffic in front and it is a strategy or philosophy of some teams to run the goaltender. Goaltenders are fighting back."

Los Angeles goaltender Bob Janecyk was suspended five games after slashing the Flyers' Peter Zezel, who skated into him with an elbow high during a Nov. 3 game.

Afterward, Pat Quinn, the Kings' coach, said: "There's an unwritten law that says you don't run the goaltender. That's an Eastern League play and the Eastern League doesn't even exist anymore. There are six or seven teams in the league that run goalies and Philly is one of them."

Apparently, Los Angeles is another. The Kings' Tiger Williams, all-time NHL penalty leader, has been involved in fights with three goaltenders this season -- Steve Weeks of Hartford, Ken Wregget of Toronto and Bouchard.

Often, when a player becomes entangled with an opposing goaltender, the incident immediately escalates into an all-out fight.

"Every time there's a rhubarb involving a goaltender, it invites immediate retaliation," said New Jersey General Manager Max McNab. "There is more involved than just two guys fighting."

The Buffalo Sabres, who briefly surged forward when General Manager Scotty Bowman relieved Coach Jim Schoenfeld behind the bench, have reverted to form with three straight losses.

The Sabres, for several years a Stanley Cup contender, seem destined to miss the playoffs. Buffalo's flop is a result of its presence in the ultracompetitive Adams Division and the failure of young players drafted by Bowman to develop in the NHL.

The cynicism that greets the NHL's repeated campaigns against violence is fueled by incidents such as the one involving defenseman Bill Stewart.

Stewart was suspended indefinitely by the American Hockey League Jan. 18 for shooting a puck at a linesman after his Springfield team suffered a controversial loss. Stewart then was called up by Minnesota, where he is eligible to play.