Witkowski's fists of fury reminiscent of 'Old Time Hockey'
Boston — So, Luke Witkowski, is your right hand a little sore today?
“As expected, yeah,” the big forward, with the big beard and the big punches said Monday, sitting in one of the visiting team rooms under the stands at TD Garden after finishing the Red Wings' optional practice.
When the Wild’s pugilistic forward Nick Seeler skated up behind Witkowski Sunday in Minnesota and spoke a few words in his ear, Seeler’s intentions were less than convivial.
Within moments, both men held each other at arm’s length, left fists both full of their opponent’s jerseys, firing clenched right hands one after another.
Bam, bam, bam!
On, and on.
All right hands. With their lefts, Witkowski and Seeler simply hung on, steadying themselves and trying to locate each other for the next blow.
These hockey fisticuffs were of days of old.
A matter of some history between the players, perhaps?
“Nope, I’ve never played against him before,” Witkowski said.
Told of a colleague’s description of the fight as looking like the old “Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Robots Game,” the big winger from Holland, Mich., smiled in apparent appreciation.
He said he knew immediately this fight would be a matter of hanging on with the left and firing rights.
“Yeah, right away,” Witkowski said. “I mean, after the first couple that he threw, I figured it was just going to be toe-to-toe.
“It ended up being a good one.”
For all the violence, that style of hockey fights is actually a bit easier, Witkowski said, than some of the wrestling matches in which it is more clutching, grabbing and trying to get an arm free for the punching.
“Oh, yeah,” he said. “Earlier in the year, I used the term O.T.H. — Old Time Hockey. That’s how they used to fight.
“In fact, today, people who like old-time fighting like to see that comeback every once in a while.”
Mantha seeks more
Anthony Mantha’s cheek is “pretty much” healed.
The deep bruise, thought to be a fracture by the look of an X-ray, turned out not to be.
Meanwhile, the 23-year-old, second-year forward is up to 21 goals with 17 games remaining, and the idea that he will evolved into a trusted 30 and possibly even 40-goal scorer seems more secure.
Through 133 career games, Mantha has 40 goals.
Asked if he is satisfied with his progress, Mantha talked about having a greater impact for the team, which struggles offensively.
“Obviously, you always want to score more,” he said. “You always want to help the team win.
“That aspect has been good. I think it can be better.”
Mantha talks about improving his overall game, and being more aggressive around the net with shots and loose pucks.
Wings coach Jeff Blashill talks about seeing Mantha’s knees bend, when he is skating, as evidence of his intention to be aggressive.
Mantha wants to beat the Bruins.
“It’s heated matches, against them,” said Mantha, who grew up nurtured on the Canadiens, including their great rivalry with the Bruins.
“We’ve lost a couple against them recently. But we need to come in here and play well, play good hockey and compete our butts off, for sure.”
Red Wings at Bruins
Face-off: 7 p.m. Tuesday, TD Garden, Boston
Notes: Three Bruins did not practice Monday, and will not play against the Wings, including young, puck-moving defenseman Charlie McAvoy (lower body). One of the best players in the NHL, Patrice Bergeron (broken foot), is also out. And goalie Tuukka Rask also missed practice. “Nursing a minor injury,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Not having skated now for three days, doesn’t look like he’ll be able to go tomorrow.”… Jimmy Howard is expected in net for the Red Wings.