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Friday, February 1, 2013
B's play to win games, not fights

By Joe McDonald
ESPNBoston.com

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- It's pure ridiculousness to even suggest that the Boston Bruins did not respond in an appropriate manner after Shawn Thornton received a concussion during a fight against the Buffalo Sabres' John Scott on Thursday night.

The two heavyweights dropped the gloves at 2:53 of the first period. Scott hit Thornton with a right, and the Boston enforcer dropped to the ice. The fight was stopped and both men went to the penalty box. After their five minutes were served, Thornton went to the locker room and never returned. Thornton did his job. Scott did his.

On Friday, the Bruins announced Thornton would miss the next seven to 10 days with a concussion.

John Scott and Shawn Thornton
Shawn Thornton is sidelined for at least a week with a concussion courtesy of John Scott.

"It is tough," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "Here's a guy who does everything for his teammates and his team and has done it very well. Unfortunately, there's always a risk in that job. He took on a pretty big man, as we all know, 6-foot-8 and around 280 pounds. [Thornton] handled himself as best as he could, but those things are going to happen. At the end of the day, he was still willing to do it for his team.

"Not only do we lose a guy who does it well, but he's a good teammate and he's great in the dressing room, so hopefully we'll get him back soon."

The Sabres signed the free-agent enforcer last summer to boost the team's toughness, especially in the Northeast Division. So after he did his job during Buffalo's 7-4 win over the Bruins on Thursday night at TD Garden, some think Thornton's teammates didn't do enough to respond.

That attention was focused on team captain Zdeno Chara, who is Scott's equal in size and stature.

The last thing the Bruins need in a lockout-shortened, 48-game season is to lose Chara for any amount of ice time, especially to an injury suffered during a fight.

On Friday, Chara was asked for his opinion whether or not he should have stepped up in defense of his teammate.

"Right now we're getting ready for our next game, which is Toronto. Those questions you guys should save for when we play [Buffalo]," Chara said.

The captain will be asked those questions soon because the Sabres host the Bruins on Feb. 10 and again on Feb. 15. Still, he appreciates what Thornton does for the Bruins.

"He's obviously the toughest guy we have," Chara said. "He's been such a warrior for us and he's done an incredible job for us for many years. It's a big loss, but I'm sure he's going to be OK."

For the Bruins to be successful, Chara needs to be healthy, productive and on the ice. He prides himself on that.

"That's a priority for me, playing well defensively, shutting guys down, so like I said, it wasn't a great game for me [Thursday] night, so I've got to regroup and make sure I go back to how I can play."

Let's face it, if Chara needs to drop the gloves, he'll do it. He's done it plenty of times in the past, and the notion he, or his teammates, didn't respond to Thornton's injury is a nonissue for Julien.

"Again, you guys do your job, and we'll do ours," Julien said to the local media after Friday's practice. "Certainly this isn't about revenge more than it's two tough guys going at it. When we win our battles, I don't think other teams send a guy for revenge. It's just two big, tough guys going at each other. It just happens. Shawn has won most of his battles and he's done well.

"This was a fair one-on-one fight and it got decided by the other guy getting the upper hand on him, but we still played a solid game, we still had a lead. If anything, it was our play that was disappointing because we would've liked to have won it for the right reasons, and Shawn sticking up for his team would have been a good reason to do that."

The Bruins are one of those rare teams that have plenty of firepower when it comes to toughness. Even their top line has two players -- Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton -- equipped to handle any situation on the ice, and that includes dropping the gloves.

Second-line winger Brad Marchand likes to chirp and get under the skin of the opposition, but he's also not afraid to mix it up when needed. After all, he did go toe-to-toe with the Canadiens' P.K. Subban early last season.

Thornton's linemate Gregory Campbell is also experienced in the art of fisticuffs and has plenty of scares to prove it. Defenseman Adam McQuaid frequently makes his presence felt, too.

After the team's practice on Friday morning at Ristuccia Arena, players were questioned whether or not they felt the team did enough after Thornton suffered a concussion. Campbell said he's not concerned with the notion the team didn't react to Scott.

"Not really. Our team, we have a lot of team toughness. We do have team toughness," Campbell said. "At the end of the day, there's a game to win. Shawn did what he had to do."

Julien agreed.

"I don't know about team toughness; it's about playing hockey," Julien said. "We are team tough, and if you'd watch the game you'd know that. Certainly, we just go out and play and do what we have to do to win hockey games -- it's pretty simple."

Zdeno Chara
Zdeno Chara isn't afraid to drop the gloves, but he can do the most damage by staying on the ice.

Julien also made the decision on Thursday to insert forward Lane MacDermid into the lineup and have forward Chris Bourque serve as the team's healthy scratch. MacDermid, 23, made the team out of training camp and was a healthy scratch for the first six games of the regular season. The 6-foot-3, 203-pounder can handle himself physically, and that's probably what Julien was thinking, even though the coach said earlier in the day he wanted to give Bourque a night off because he thought he was pressing too much.

Julien explained his point again when asked about why MacDermid was in the lineup.

"I don't think Shawn was the only guy on our team that does that," explained Julien. "When you look back, Looch has already dropped the gloves a couple of times, and McQuaid [too]. We like to consider ourselves team tough. We stick up for each other. You've seen Ference step in there at times, and it's not about one guy, it's about our whole team being team tough and sticking up for each other. I think we've done that well, so no doubt Shawn is going to be missed for all the right reasons, not the wrong ones, and hopefully he'll be back soon."

With his limited ice time, MacDermid said he was more focused on playing his game and trying to help the Bruins win rather than dropping the gloves in retribution. But he said if the opportunity was needed and presented itself, then the mitts would have been off.

"I'm always ready when the chance arises," he said. "If I have to stick up for a teammate or if something happens out there, I always have that in the back of my mind. I was ready. I'm always usually ready."

MacDermid admitted he didn't think anything would happen in the closing seconds of the game and it didn't. Maybe that's because Scott was back on the ice for the Sabres.

Then there's the questionable timeout call by Sabres coach Lindy Ruff.

With Buffalo holding a 7-4 lead with 14 seconds remaining in the game, Ruff called for a timeout, which did not go over too well with the Bruins. Marchand called the move "disrespectful" after the game.

Ruff said he was only protecting his top players because Julien sent the Bruins' fourth line out, including MacDermid, to close out the game.

"We can call it what we want, but he's entitled to his timeout," Julien said after Friday's practice. "Maybe the only thing I'm disappointed in is the fact that he thought I sent MacDermid out. If that's his explanation, anybody who knows me knows better than that. I don't do that in the last seconds, it's not my style, nor is it wise to do those kinds of things. I just sent that line out to finish the game, but [Ruff] wanted to be cautious and I don't think I'm a coach that will send a guy that can fight against the other team's top player to beat him up with 20 seconds left. That certainly wasn't going to happen.

"Having said that, [Ruff] decided to be cautious and that's his right, so I have nothing more to say about that other than he did what he was allowed to do."

The Bruins and Sabres will play four more times this season, so it's safe to say this rivalry will continue.