He is, without question, the straw that stirs the Calgary Flames
' drink. And these days, Brandon Prust
’s teammates are seeing plenty of fizz.
"Every team needs a player like him," linemate Brian McGrattan
said prior to Tuesday's home game against Columbus. "He goes out and gets the job done. He doesn’t fear anybody. He’ll hit anybody, fight anybody. And he’s also got other talents — he’s a good checking winger, he can put the puck in the net, he can make plays.
"It’s been a joy to play with him."
If Prust has been a joy to McGrattan, he’s been a revelation to the Flames during this opening month of the season.
Through his first eight games, Prust led the NHL in fighting majors with five. Two came last Friday -- when he also had two assists in a 5-3 victory over Vancouver in which he helped set up McGrattan's first NHL goal in nearly four years.
The 5-11, 195-pound winger from London, Ont., also scored the winner against Vancouver on Oct. 1. Heading into the game against the Blue Jackets, Prust had as many points (four) as Jarome Iginla
— and a plus-minus figure (+5) that was one shy of the club lead.
He's accomplished all this in less than seven minutes of ice time a night.
"I’m doing the things that got me here. That’s working hard, being an energy player, fighting if need be," Prust told NHL.com. "And if I can put some points on the board, then that’s definitely a bonus too.
"We know we’re not going to get a ton of ice time out there. We just need to make sure that with the ice time we do get, we make the best of it."
It’s easy to see why the Flames, after dealing the lionhearted Prust away last March as part of the Olli Jokinen
trade, reacquired him from the Phoenix Coyotes
during a draft-day deal in June.
In a way, Prust is making up for somewhat of a lost season; he missed 30 games in 2008-09 with a broken jaw.
"You can’t say enough about Prusty," center Craig Conroy
said. "He’s got so much skill, too, and people don’t give him credit for it."
Prust’s fearlessness has earned him plenty of admirers in the Flames’ locker room. Not many have forgotten Oct. 18, 2008, when held his own against the Oilers’ Steve MacIntyre
-- giving away 55 pounds in the process -- after MacIntyre had blasted Dustin Boyd
into the corner boards at Edmonton’s Rexall Place.
"It’s not about winning the fight; it’s about showing up for your team," said McGrattan, who played with Prust last season in Phoenix. "It gives everybody a boost when they see a guy like that sacrifice, get the emotion and energy going."
Said Prust: "The big guys definitely are a little tougher to handle sometimes. But you’ve got to fight 'em smart, use your head, use your strengths, not make yourself too vulnerable."