WILMINGTON – Now that he’s healthy, Colton Orr – all 6-foot-3, 222 pounds of him – has become a fixture in the Toronto lineup again. If the Leafs really want to beef up their squad Saturday night against the Bruins, they could dress recent waiver claim Frazer McLaren, who bests Orr’s bulk at 6-foot-5, 222 pounds.
Boston forward Lane MacDermid, the man most equipped to pick up the slack for the injured Shawn Thornton, has already fought McLaren twice in the American Hockey League this season. Orr, a veteran of nearly 400 games, would be a whole different beast for MacDermid to handle. Nonetheless, Boston’s 6-foot-3, 205-pound fourth-liner says he’s not worried. There might be just one person a little concerned heading into the Bruins-Leafs tilt.
“Maybe my mom worries if there’s a big guy on the other team, maybe she won’t want me to fight him,” MacDermid said after practice Friday at Ristuccia Arena.
MacDermid’s mom has gotten used to worrying. From his junior days into his pro career, he’s been a consistent 100-PIM guy with double-digit fight totals. With Thornton around, MacDermid could be a secondary option for opponents that want to rile things up or for the Bruins to look to for a life. Now even on a team with several rugged individuals, MacDermid should be the focal point of those situations that would normally include Thornton.
MacDermid broke into the NHL last season with a bout against New York Rangers giant Mike Rupp in his NHL debut. MacDermid survived to tell the tale, and this season he cracked the Bruins’ opening night roster after a solid season with the Providence (AHL) farm club. His fight totals have decreased every season since he turned pro – from 21 as a rookie to 20 the next season to 13 last year – but that’s not due to any drop-off in his aggressiveness.
“It’s just the way it goes sometimes because I’m not really planning on it. … As a young guy, guys might not know you as well, so they maybe thought I was an easier fighter,” said MacDermid, who had seven AHL fights this season. “And when I was younger I guess I was trying to prove myself a bit. So I was asking guys a little bit more. It’s always going to be part of the game.”
Thornton’s concussion could be a cautionary tale for guys in his and MacDermid’s line of work. However, MacDermid said he’s not letting the risk get in his way of living his dream in the NHL.
“It’s just part of the game,” he said. “Fighting or not fighting, head injuries are just part of the game. It’s just a matter of being smart and taking care of those injuries.”
While his mom might admit to worrying about him, MacDermid’s dad Paul – a NHL lunch-pail player for more than a decade – accepts the non-hockey aspects of his son’s job. MacDermid, however, said his dad limits his advice to the hockey and not the punching.
MacDermid might need a tip or two heading into the showdown with the Leafs, who will want to flex their muscle after the Bruins swept the season series last season. He might lean on his teammates for advice, but he’s also not shy about checking out the videos on hockeyfights.com to devise a scouting report. Orr and McLaren might both have a size edge, but they might also be completely different types of pugilists.
“You have to change your approach to each fighter,” he said. “Each fighter’s different. Even two guys that are the same size, they’ll fight different. You have to approach that in a different way.”
After making his season debut in a game that lacked any fighting after Thornton was downed by John Scott, MacDermid will have to change his approach starting against the Leafs. As part of the game, challenging the biggest guy with the largest PIM total will always be on opponents’ to-do lists, and that puts MacDermid at the top of that list.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes coverage to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on twitter @TheBruinsBlog.