NEW YORK – When Brandon Prust joined the New York Rangers from the Calgary Flames in January 2010, he wasn’t much more than a player who would drop the gloves and spend most of a game glued to the bench in a strict enforcer role.
That changed under Rangers coach John Tortorella, who employed him as a checking-line wingr and penalty-killing specialist. Prust also fought more than anyone in the NHL last season, and it resulted in him being rewarded with a four-year, $10 million contract by the Montreal Canadiens in July.
Left Wing - MTL
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 2 | PTS: 4
SOG: 15 | +/-: 4
Prust wasn’t looking to leave as a free agent, but the Canadiens made an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“Well, to have some teams come at you like Montreal did, it’s definitely flattering, and I think it was good for me to also set a precedent for players like me and how important we can be to teams.” Prust told reporters at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night with the Canadiens paying a visit to the Rangers. “That was something I was happy to do as well, you know? Sometimes players like me are maybe overlooked or not looked at as an important piece to the puzzle, but it was something I wanted to prove and wanted to show.”
Through 15 games with the Canadiens, Prust is playing 12:28 per game, a little more than the 11:56 he played per game with the Rangers last season. He’s killing penalties with the Canadiens and racking up the penalty minutes. Entering Tuesday’s game, Prust led the NHL with 71 PIMs.
Despite being a fan favorite in his two-plus seasons with the Rangers, he said he doesn't know how he'll be received at MSG.
“I’m not really sure, but just from Twitter I know it seems like everybody respects kind of what I did here,” Prust said. “I came and worked my butt off while I was here, and New Yorkers love that. They like guys that come in and just give honest hard work. So we’ll see. It is New York, but there might be mixed emotions definitely.”
Prust was asked if there anyone he wanted to “take on” in the Rangers lineup, with pugilist Arron Asham being an obvious choice for a bout. But Prust had his mind on a different player.
“Yeah, Henrik Lundqvist. I’d like to put a couple past him, but we all know that’s pretty tough,” Prust said. “I’m going to go out here like it’s another game. It’s another game and I’m going to do everything I can to help my team get two points. That’s the most important thing.”