TORONTO - The Toronto Maple Leafs led the league in fighting majors this season, often dropping the gloves early in a game to set the tone.
If not Murderers Row, Colton Orr (13 fights according to hockeyfights.com) Frazer McLaren (12) and Mark Fraser (9) can definitely leave a mark.
While Fraser pulls down a regular shift on the blue-line, forwards Orr and McLaren see more selective action. How much that will be in the playoffs remains to be seen.
"We think that there's a place for toughness in our lineup," coach Randy Carlyle said after practice Friday. "But toughness is in a different form at times in the playoffs. So to say that they're going to be in the lineup on a day-to-day basis, I'm not going to say anybody's going to be in the lineup on a day-to-day basis.
"I think that they've earned an opportunity to play for our hockey club. They've been great teammates, they've defended the honour and defended themselves at times. And we have no issue putting any one of those players in our lineup."
Orr and McLaren both sat out Wednesday's loss to Tampa. McLaren also watched Thursday's win over the Panthers.
The six-foot-five, 230-pound McLaren wears the scars of his profession. His face is lined with bumps and signs of repair work while his battered knuckles would make a bricklayer look like a hand model.
He's not sure what awaits in the post-season but he's hopeful.
"We've got a couple of extra forwards and D (defencemen) here but I think no matter who Randy decides to go with Game 1, everyone's capable of playing and playing a big role in the playoffs ... Maybe fighting does go down in the playoffs but I think the guys on this team who fight fairly regularly are also key contributors," said McLaren. "Look at Mark Fraser as an example. He's a huge key to the back end there, it's good to see that."
Whatever happens, McLaren knows his role.
"One of my captains in the American Hockey League when I was younger came to me one day—he was a little guy, a skilled player—and he said 'Man, that's a tough way to make a living. But on the other end of it, you'll probably get a chance to play in the NHL,'" he recalled.
"I guess the reward maybe outweighs how hard a job it is."
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