Kulemin vows to be ready next time


, Last Updated: 9:29 PM ET

TAMPA Nikolai Kulemin was back in the Leafs lineup Tuesday with a shiner below his left eye and a vow to be ready the next time a flurry of fists comes his way.

But the man who inflicted the knockout punch the night before said he felt bad about the one-sided pummelling, but defended himself by saying Kulemin had it coming.

I dont hit people who I know dont fight, Carolina defenceman Tim Gleason told the Charlotte News & Observer.

I took one punch, then I took two and I thought, Well, if youre going to keep punching me in the face, I dont know what else to do.

What he did was lose patience with a player who probably got what he deserved, fighter or not. Leafs coach Ron Wilson said as much after the game and general Brian Burke said the team wouldnt pursue further discipline from the league.

Kulemin said he was provoked from a Gleason cross-check but vowed he will be quicker to drop the gloves in the future.

Im not going for a fight, Im just protecting my teammates, the Russian said. Ill be ready for a fight next time.

The Leafs wont have to wait long for retribution: Carolina is at the Air Canada next Thursday.