Just a few days ago, Ethan Moreau's hand was so swollen he could barely hold a hockey stick.
Yet the Edmonton Oilers captain didn't hesitate in challenging Jordin Tootoo after the Nashville Predators winger had plastered Ales Hemsky into the boards early in last night's 5-2 win at Rexall Place.
"I didn't think about it, but as soon as I punched him I did," said Moreau. "Once I was actually doing it, I kind of realized that it didn't feel really good."
Tootoo had caught Hemsky coming around the boards chasing a loose puck on the second shift of the game.
Considered one of the hardest hitters in the league, Tootoo's shoulder hit the Oilers star in the face, causing his nose to bleed.
Hemsky stayed down for a few moments, then had to be helped off the ice. He returned later in the period.
"Hemmer is our best player and a good friend, so you kind of get that brotherly love when you see him bleeding on the bench," Moreau said. "I just got to him first, there were probably three or four guys on our team that would have done the same."
Tootoo was challenged by Moreau on his ensuing shift. Not one to back away from a good scrap, the Predators agitator accepted the challenge.
"The good thing about him is that he sticks up for himself," Moreau said.
"We need more of that in the league. He knows it's coming and he's prepared to fight anybody.
"There are a lot guys that run Hemmer and then you have to take a penalty on them. But I didn't have to take an instigator penalty on him, he knew it was coming and was willing to fight. More of that would be better."
Moreau injured his wrist a week ago, going down to block a shot from Olli Jokinen in a win over the Phoenix Coyotes.
FEARED THE WORST
The puck hit Moreau on the inside of the wrist and at first it was feared he had broken a bone in his wrist, but X-rays came back negative. However, he was forced to miss Friday's game in Vancouver against the Canucks.
Last night, he still had visible bruising and swelling on his wrist.
"On Christmas day it looked bad," Moreau said. "The swelling has moved a little since then, but in a couple of days you probably won't even be able to tell."
The fight against Tootoo, gave the Oilers extra motivation in the contest. Later in the game Zack Stortini took on Wade Belak.
"It was probably ill-advised, but that's his game," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish.
"It's infectious when you get that out of your captain and your leader. It wasn't by accident, he went out there looking for him.
"You have to give him credit for knowing he was capable of doing it in the first place, and then credit for taking him on."
1. Erik Cole, Oilers
A breakout game with a goal and two assists, a third of the point total he had going into the contest.
2. Sam Gagner, Oilers
Made a great play to set up the go-ahead goal in the second period.
3. Sheldon Souray, Oilers
Got things started with another rocket from the point on the power play.
WHY THEY WON
They took advantage of a bad giveaway and some sloppy goaltending to pull away in what was, up to that point, a tight game.
PLAY OF GAME
Sam Gagner gets to a puck that got away from Predators defenceman Kevin Klein as he was coming out from behind his own net. The Oilers forward flips it over Klein's stick, corrals it and slides it over to Erik Cole who tips it over goaltender Dan Ellis.
HIT OF GAME
Ethan Moreau, bad wrist and all, challenges Jordin Tootoo to a fight a couple of shifts after the Predators winger had plastered Ales Hemsky along the boards.
Ottawa: Host the Senators tomorrow at 8 p.m.; S'Net, Ched