WILMINGTON, Mass. — There was a time when an NHL rookie game would guarantee a donnybrook or two. Or more likely 12. Gloves would litter the ice and it would be standing-room only in the penalty boxes as youngsters did whatever they could to make an impression on management.
Those days are largely gone in the kinder, gentler NHL of the new millennium, but just in case, the Bruins and New York Islanders have instituted restrictions on fighting in the rookie games at the Garden Wednesday and Thursday night.
"Our fighting rule is pretty good," said Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli. "I don't think you'll see a lot of fights. Two fights [and] you're out of the two games."
That could come as a disappointment to many fans, as well as some players still trying to carve out a niche in the game with their physical play.
"It's been a long summer," said forward Lane MacDermid. "When you're playing shinny you can't really lay the body out. I'm a little anxious, so that should be good."
MacDermid led Providence with 21 fighting majors last year in his first professional season, and it can be tough to show all of his attributes in practice, where beating up his future teammates tends to be frowned upon.
"Obviously, sometimes practice drills don't show what you bring to the game, the little nuances of your game that you're better off showing in a game situation," said Providence coach Rob Murray, who is overseeing the on-ice sessions of this week's rookie camp. "A guy like Dermie [MacDermid] I'm sure is ready to bang some bodies out there and get 'er going. He's a guy that's a physical player and for the most part within your own practices with your own teammates there's a little bit of body contact, but not what you're looking for in a game."
MacDermid is capable of handling the rough stuff, but he doesn't mind getting a chance to show what he can do with the gloves on as well.
"I'm trying to mold myself into being a power forward," said MacDermid. "Obviously I play a physical game, but I'm trying to expand my skillset so I can play a bigger role on the team.
"I'm just going to try to play my game and if something arises obviously I'll take that opportunity, but I'm not going to go crazy out there," added MacDermid. "If it comes, it comes."
And it could come if anyone on the Islanders takes any liberties with Tyler Seguin and Co., as MacDermid knows it will be his responsibility to handle such situations.
"We've got a lot of skilled guys on the team, so part of my role is to protect them if guys are taking shots at them," said MacDermid.
Times have changed in the NHL, but high-profile rookies like Seguin will still get challenged until they establish themselves in the league. But knowing guys like MacDermid have his back allows Seguin to feel free from the need to drop the gloves himself very often.
"That hasn't crossed my mind," said Seguin when asked by one reporter if he thought he would have to prove himself physically. "I'm going out there to work my hardest. If that comes and I need to stand up for myself, obviously I'm gonna.
"But if it's Chris Pronger coming up to me I might have to turn it down," added Seguin with a smile.
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