-- As tough guys go, Vancouver's Rick Rypien
is considered the class of the NHL's middleweights.
So, what just happened last Saturday night in Vancouver? Did a belt exchange hands?
During Calgary's 3-2 shootout win against the Canucks, Flames scrapper Brandon Prust
laid a licking on Rypien late in the first period. Enough of a licking, in fact, to entice the Rypien -- cut during their first encounter -- to try it again midway through the second.
Quantifying this sort of thing, of course, is a mug's game. But Prust's teammates definitely kept their own scorecards.
"It says a lot that Rypien wanted another piece of him, for sure," forward David Moss
Rypien's "obviously not the toughest guy in the League, because Prust is," Flames defenseman Cory Sarich
told the Calgary Sun. “The only reason Rypien fought him the second time was trying to save face."
Prust, a 5-foot-11, 195-pounder from London, Ont., has earned the admiration of his Flames teammates since earning himself a full-time NHL roster spot during the 2008-09 season.
He definitely earned his keep Saturday with those lengthy bouts against Rypien -- fights No. 13 and 14 of the current campaign.
"I don't know if it would be a statement," Prust, 25, told NHL.com. "But I think the guys know I'm not going to back down from anybody. They were two good, spirited tilts, and that's all that matters to me — that my teammates enjoy it and feed off it.
"My teammates know what I can do and what I will do to stick up for them, or spark the team, if need be. Those scraps got the emotion and the intensity going."
Prust, who played with the London Knights (OHL), was considered valuable enough to the Flames last season that he was reacquired in a trade from Phoenix in the summer after being dealt to the Coyotes in the Olli Jokinen
deal in March.
But as a fourth-liner expected to crank up the energy, he's had bouts of inconsistency this winter, sitting out as many as three games in a row as a healthy scratch.
Prust is averaging a little more than six minutes of ice time a game, with 83 penalty minutes, a goal, five points and a plus-7 rating through 35 contests.
"He certainly did a great job (Saturday) . . . but, again, should that be a surprise?" Flames head coach Brent Sutter
said Monday. "We need Prusty to bring that to the table for us."
And he did just that again Monday night, during the Flames' 3-2 shootout loss to the visiting Colorado Avalanche
. In fact, he was a goal short of a Gordie Howe
Prust was one of three Flames to fight before the game was four minutes old, choosing Cody McLeod
as his partner.
It was Prust's line -- with Dustin Boyd
and Brian McGrattan
-- that lifted the Flames into the driver's seat, at 2-0, early in the second period, with Boyd scoring on the rebound of a McGrattan shot from the outside.
Prust's secondary assist on that play ended a personal 26-game points drought that had stretched back to Oct. 16.
There's no doubt, say his Flames teammates, that Prust is a more rounded player than some of the tough guys who've preceded him through Calgary during the past five years, players like Andre Roy
, Eric Godard
, Chris Simon
, and Krzysztof Oliwa
"I've played with Prusty since the minors, and I know how tough he is," forward Eric Nystrom
told NHL.com. "There aren't too many guys he won't take on. He won't back down from anybody. He's got some serious guts. We really feed off that as a team, and that's a huge part of the game.
"He creates a lot of energy, and he works so hard every single day. That's something that doesn't go unnoticed. He's got to drop the gloves as part of his role, but we all know how valuable he is as a player, too."