Malone scrapping for position in Hurricanes lineup

Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network

RALEIGH, N.C. – It wasn’t a situation that Carolina Hurricanes forward Brad Malone expected to get into when he took to the ice against the Montreal Canadiens on Monday.

Barely five minutes into the game, he was lined up for a faceoff in the Montreal zone and within seconds of puck drop he had let his gloves and stick go and was tangling with the Canadiens’ Brandon Prust.

It wasn’t a staged or premeditated situation whatsoever according to the 25-year old forward, but one that lasted about 40 seconds – a good length by NHL fight standards.

“Nah, I think we just kinda’ bumped into each other at the faceoff,” Malone said.

“He kinda’ asked if I wanted to go, so it was one of those things. I don’t know whether he was tryin’ to get some momentum for his team or what.”

With the fight or flight response in full effect, Malone traded swipes with Prust who was no stranger to getting in such energizing situations with another team’s player.

Malone didn’t expect the scrap to go as long as it did – it seemed to finish pretty quickly in his mind.

“It’s one of those things that seems kind of short,” Malone continued.

“It’s one of those things that’s just momentum and adrenalin, right? I guess when you look back at the video I guess it was pretty long.”

Coming out of it with more or less a draw, both Malone and Prust proceeded to the penalty box to sit for five minutes while the crowd of 17,123 in attendance cheered and clapped their approval of the encounter.

“I thought it was fine,” Carolina head coach Bill Peters said when asked about it after practice on Tuesday.

“Both guys were willing combatants. I don’t know really what set it off. Maybe it’s prior history or somethin’ happened off the draw, I’m not sure, but it shows me that one guy can count. He sees how many forwards are startin’ to get healthy and startin’ to come back. He’s gonna’ do what he can to hold onto his spot. That’s the internal competition. I thought that line was very good, generated some good O-zone time. Obviously the fight I thought energized our group too. He’s a guy who’s lookin’ to stay in the lineup.”

The play kept the buzz in the building going for the rest of the game, even though Carolina eventually ended up losing 3-1 to the Habs.

Should it now be expected that Malone will go looking for situations like that – looking to find the ‘it’ factor to create and build momentum in order to win more games, or even sell more tickets in anticipation of it?

Will there be a main event bout expected more often that it has with this team, that still is the nicest or least penalized team in the NHL?

If so, it won’t be by design, according to Malone.

He sees it happening more as a reaction to what circumstances dictate on the ice at the time – the reason many in and around the league have justified and why the rules still allow and penalize accordingly for those situations.

“No, I don’t think so anymore – I think the game’s a little different,” Malone said.

“Obviously, I don’t think about it. I’m not gonna’ stage a fight. But you know, when you play with grit and a presence physically, sometimes it comes up. Whether it’s that or stickin’ up for your teammate, it’s something you gotta’ be willing to do.”

Still a young pro who’s trying to carve out his niche and role in the league as part of the Hurricanes – he knows and as alluded to by his coach – he’s gotta’ scrap for his spot in the lineup, figuratively and literally speaking.

Is he going to assume a tough guy role?

Possibly – if it helps him to stay in the game on a team that needs that style of play.

Going up against someone like Prust, a 10-year pro whose offensive numbers have gone up the grittier his game has gotten, Malone can possibly discover how he may be able to carve out a similar identity for himself.

“If you get in one of those fights, you hope it goes in your favor, and get momentum for the guys,” he concluded.

“He’s one of those guys who’s been around for a while. I have a lot of respect for what he does. He plays a hard game and plays hockey as well also. It’s someone you kind of look to kind of learn from.”