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Fight club

Posted by Fluto Shinzawa, Globe Staff  December 17, 2008 09:16 AM

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Shawn Thornton knew he had to answer Georges Laraque's challenge in the first regular-season game against Montreal this season. (AP Photo)

Mark Stuart, who chased down Mike Commodore and initiated a fight last season, was on the other end of the situation as well. On Nov. 7, 2007, Stuart took exception to an Andrei Kostitsyn spear and pummeled the Montreal winger, so he knew the Habs would be eager to respond. Indeed, late in the third period, gritty forward Tom Kostopoulos approached Stuart after a whistle and engaged the defenseman.

"I was standing in front of the net and I could see him out of the corner of my eye coming after me," Stuart recalled. "I expected somebody to come after me after that. He was facing me when he came toward me. I've got to expect somebody is going to respond after I fought one of their skilled players."

* Based on the following from Milan Lucic, you can gather that had the reins been off, he would have accepted Georges Laraque's invitation last month. "I hate turning down a challenge," Lucic said. "That's just a personality thing for me. It's hard to say now. You don't want to say no here. It's really hard. I really have to pull back when I say no."

* Shawn Thornton said his hands already hurt from the damage he's taken over a career of fighting. He cites ice and Advil as his go-to remedies. "I'm sure there'll be something," Thornton said of long-term repercussions. "But hopefully my family will be set and I'll be set. It's like anything. My old man's worked in a steel factory for 31 years. I'm sure he's going to have long-term damage from that. You do what you've got to do to set yourself up in the best position."

* Thornton said he didn't like Philadelphia's Riley Cote when they were sparring mates in the AHL. Thornton said Cote sucker-punched him once, and he acknowledged throwing an elbow at the Philly scrapper. "Couldn't stand him," Thornton said. "But we've fought so many times now that we show more respect for each other." After a square-off on Oct. 27, 2007, Thornton tapped Cote on the helmet to acknowledge a good fight.

* Among the heavyweights, the sentiment seems to be standard: Get rid of the instigator rule. "Then it all sorts itself out," Thornton said. "Then you don't have guys that are 5-10, 180 pounds running around, leading the league in penalty minutes and not fighting anyone. But I don't think that's ever going to happen. So we're just going to have to deal with it by getting up by five goals and doing it that way."

* Thornton was asked how the Bruins would have responded to Dallas's Steve Ott if the instigator rule were eliminated. "I think he would have gotten his head punched in," Thornton said. "I don't think he would have done anything the rest of the game. You throw a couple cheap shots, I think somebody would have taken care of it. If not, he gets it again, I guess."

* While Shane Hnidy has been willing to participate in fisticuffs, he gave a stick salute to the tough guys who are paid to drop the gloves. "I don't know how those guys do it," Hnidy said. "I've done it sparingly. It's tough. Now, heavyweights are so big. If you go in hoping not to get hit, you're in big trouble. All it takes is one lucky punch."

* The message sent by management and coaches to Cam Neely was this: Pick your spots. "One of the things I was told early on," Neely said, "in my career in Boston was, 'Decide when you want to fight. Don't let other players decide when to fight.' If other players wanted to engage me, sometimes the tradeoff wasn't beneficial for our team. When I wanted to engage, it was usually a pure, instinctive moment."

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