When Brandon Prust enters Madison Square Garden tonight as a member of the Montreal Canadiens, he should receive a standing ovation from the home crowd.
Prust was always a fan favorite in the Big Apple as he was the style of gritty player New Yorkers love. He was a good forechecker, excellent on the penalty kill — and someone the Rangers would love right now in the absence of Darroll Powe — and a very skilled fighter, despite being undersized.
In fact, according to hockeyfights.com, Prust has competed in 87 career NHL regular season fights. You can re-live them all on the site if you'd like, but you'll be at your computer for quite a while.
The fans loved Prust so much that after the 2011 season, he was awarded the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award, which is given to the Rangers player who "goes above and beyond the call of duty."
"He did a lot of things for us," captain Ryan Callahan said. "He created energy. He could go up and down the lineup. Obviously on the penalty kill, he was a mainstay on that. It's hard to replace any player that does that much for your team."
"I'm sure he'll be excited," defenseman Marc Staal added. "He's a good guy, a good teammate for us. I'm sure he'll want to score or do something coming into the rink."
Needless to say, the forward who signed a four-year $10 million contract with Montreal will look to leave his mark on Madison Square Garden tonight.
You never know if a goal will come, but one thing is inevitable — a fight.
The questions is: who will that fight come against?
The New York Rangers should only have recent call-up Brandon Mashinter or Aaron Asham be the two options for Prust. Mashinter is a much bigger forward, but has only been in three NHL fights in his career.
The guy we believe Prust will go after is Asham. Asham was brought into New York to fill Prust's tough guy role, and Prust will challenge him to see how he's doing.
Asham is known to hold his own in fights, having fought 93 times throughout his career.
Prust leads the NHL this year with 71 penalty minutes in Montreal's first 15 games, and expect him to tac on at least another five tonight.
Rangers head coach John Tortorella was much less sentimental when talking about Prust, calling him "just another guy in a Montreal uniform."
It's like he wants Prust more fired up for this one. We're looking forward to the bout, and will be torn when it comes who to root for as Prust will always be a favorite in New York for the way he played the game.
Puck drops tonight at 7:00 p.m. Don't be late, as this fight could come with the opening draw.
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