Fighting for his future

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:18 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- Rick Rypien was still wearing the reminders of his first NHL game 48 hours earlier when the puck dropped against the Edmonton Oilers last night.

Rypien, a scrappy 22-year-old forward from Coleman, Alta. - who just happens to be a cousin of former NFL quarterback Mark Rypien - had a couple of shiners and five stitches on the bridge of his nose from a scrap with Colorado's Ian Laperriere Saturday.

And, it should be mentioned, a smile on his face after getting into a fight on his very first NHL shift as a member of the Vancouver Canucks.

"I just keep plugging away," said Rypien, who got on the telephone and filled in his cousin on the tilt with Laperriere after the game. "I'm not the toughest guy by any means, but it's been a part of my game. If it happens, it happens."

Rypien, called up from the Manitoba Moose because injuries have left the Canucks short up front, isn't a big guy. In fact, he's a small guy -- the former Regina Pat is listed at five-foot-11 and 170 pounds.

No matter. After running Colorado's Brett Clark, Rypien had Laperriere, who is two inches taller and 30 pounds heavier, looking for him.

Even though Rypien had been told before the game by Canucks coach Alain Vigneault not to fight - Rypien is coming off a hand injury - the pugnacious rookie doffed the leather and went at it.

"I didn't plan on fighting. I didn't think it was going to happen like that right away," said Rypien, who scuffed up Laperriere pretty well in the bout. "He was sticking up for a teammate. It was a tough situation."

With more than 120 penalty minutes in three different seasons with the Pats and the Moose, Rypien - a free agent who was never drafted - is no wallflower when it comes to the rough stuff, despite his diminutive stature.

"I'm a smaller guy so I've just always tried to work hard," Rypien said. "I think I have to work hard to make something happen out there.

"I've done it pretty much all my life, so I'm not going to change anything. It's got me where I'm at today. I'm just going to keep doing what I do."


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