Wild muscle out-hustled

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:15 AM ET

To hear Jacques Lemaire tell it, you can never have too many tough guys.

The more, the scarier.

So the Minnesota Wild, already home to the NHL's heavyweight champion in Derek Boogaard, became a rather menacing three-headed monster with the addition of enforcers Chris Simon and Todd Fedoruk.

Why? Simple.

"To get bigger and tougher," shrugged Lemaire, worried that his club wasn't rugged enough to withstand a long playoff grind. "Look at the league, where it's going. You have to follow where it's going."

MUSCLE UP

The Anaheim Ducks certainly used muscle to their advantage last season, and the Calgary Flames are no picnic, either.

So the Wild view it as a simple case of if you can't beat 'em, toughen up.

"Look at Anaheim and Calgary," said Simon, who sat out last night's game while Boogaard and Fedoruk played. "They have a lot of guys who can fight, so in that sense it's nice (having three in Minny). One guy doesn't have to do it all, you can mix it around."

"I think that's the way hockey should be played," added the six-foot-seven Boogaard. "When they changed the rules, everyone saw all the speed, but how boring was the game? I thought they were pretty boring. This is just good, old Canadian hockey that's catching on again.

"Anaheim did it last year. that's the way it's going to be from now on."

On the other bench, Craig MacTavish begs to differ.

The Oilers haven't had a true heavyweight for two years now, and, frankly, the coach doesn't really see a need most nights.

He understands what the Wild are going for, but sees Edmonton headed in a different direction.

"It's definitely a strategy, a collective organizational strategy that they wanted to get tougher," he said of Minnesota joining the arms race. "They've improved the toughness part of it, for sure. It's just a case of how much you give up to have that toughness."

MacTavish much prefers a fourth line that can deliver more than right hands. And it's hard to argue with the juggernaut that Kyle Brodziak, Curtis Glencross and Zack Stortini have become. While Minnesota's tough guys were a non-factor in the outcome, Edmonton's fourth line scored twice, for their sixth and seventh goals in the last four games.

Grinders doesn't exactly describe what they're bringing to the Oilers.

"We know what we want to accomplish going into every night," said Brodziak, who scored his 14th of the season, and has a goals to minutes ratio that might be among the best in the league.

"We know if we're skating hard and playing physical we're a line that's capable of scoring. We just have to keep playing simple and reminding ourselves of what we want to accomplish."

CRASH AND BANG

They go into games expecting to do a lot more than crash and bang.

"We've felt that way for a long time," said Brodziak.

"Even on nights we're not going to score, we're going to generate chances. As long as we keep on skating and moving our feet and playing physical, that's how we're going to generate our chances."

Stortini, meanwhile, didn't have to drop a glove. But on a night when the Oilers raised their arms five times, he finished plus two with an assist.


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