WILMINGTON, Mass. -- The Bruins have Brad Marchand as their agitator.
The Sabres have Patrick Kaleta, whom one Bruins player referred to as a "little piece of ... " on Thursday following a grueling practice to atone for Boston's worst defeat of the season -- a 6-0 drubbing at Buffalo Wednesday night.
But is the Sabres' pest and are other NHL agitators getting under the skin of the Bruins during their current funk? Kaleta was a constant thorn in the Bruins' side Wednesday. He drew a Sabres power play four minutes into the second period, when ruins captain Zdeno Chara went after him after Kaleta hit Chara into goalie Tuukka Rask, and scored a goal. But that isn't how the Bruins saw it. In fact they saw it as a good sign that they're still sticking together in tough times and standing up for each other.
"Z [Chara] took a penalty on him early on," Bruins coach Claude Julien said Thursday, "but that's the only penalty he drew on us I guess and the other one was just a fight. So he is that type of player and we talk about it all the time. I'm sure other teams about Marchand making sure that they don't take penalties on him. He's no different and it's up to us to stay focused and not let those kind of guys throw us off. So I wouldn't give those types of guys too much credit to say they're the reason that we played poorly. We aware of what they do and when a guy like him starts targeting our real good players that's when we step in."
The Bruins had three fighting majors and there was plenty of scrums as the game went on; it was clear this wasn't the Bruins' night. They're a team that is usually at the top of the list in fighting majors during the regular season, but they tend to use fights to their advantage. Julien didn't see his team straying from that Wednesday.
"I don't think [Wednesday] there was much we could do in regards to [fighting]," Julien said. "There was a lot of stuff that went on and guys stood up for each other. We all know what No. 36 Kaleta on Buffalo is all about and he's an agitator and likes to hit late and sometimes it's dangerous. [Lucic] went out there and stood up to him. He talked to him first and gloves were off. So I don't know if it's really that or you do what you have to do and at the end of the game it's a cheap shot on our player going off the ice so it was taken care of. Again, those types of things happen and probably a little bit more when it's a 6-0 game and frustrations going to be a little bit higher."
So while the Bruins may not be playing their best hockey right now, they don't believe they let the Sabres frustrate them Wednesday or that any other team has knocked them off their game. They also don't plan on backing off from anyone and will continue to make sure no teams take liberties with them. They may be playing .500 hockey right now, but they have no plans of altering their style or identity.
"Sometimes in games like those and I'm not sure it's frustration but you're definitely not going to let things happen when the score's out of reach," said Thornton, who had two of Boston's three fighting majors. "You're going to protect yourself or I guess address situations that need to be addressed. So maybe a little bit frustration but I think more the style we play. If there's a situation that arises then we deal with it."