WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Byron Bitz scored two goals in a February win over Florida and notched a goal in the Bruins' disappointing Game 7 playoff loss to Carolina as an NHL rookie last season.
But of Bitz's shining moments in his 35 regular-season games and five postseason contests, it's hard for anyone to forget his courageous scrap with gigantic Washington brawler Donald Brashear last January.
Tonight Bitz and Brashear might get reacquainted at Madison Square when both players skate in the preseason opener for their teams. Brashear signed with New York as a free agent over the summer.
"That Brashear fight, a lot of people asked me about," said Bitz about the chatter among his buddies when he was home in Saskatoon during the offseason. "And that goal in Game 7, a lot of people asked about what that felt like. And that chant, that was really something. I guess you don't see that that often and that was pretty special."
It was toward the end of his near hat trick against Florida that the Garden echoed with "We want Bitz, we want Bitz." Those highlights were all a product of Bitz not hanging his head after he was a healthy scratch 12 times during his stint in Boston.
"I was happy to be here. My goal my whole life was to play in the NHL. And if I was the extra guy and I was hanging my head about it, I'd kick myself," he said. "I was happy to be part of the team and it wasn't that bad because mentally I'd tell myself, 'Hey, you might be playing tonight so do everything like you're going to play.' And then when I did end up playing, it was just seamless getting back in there."
Despite his impressive play of last season, Bitz isn't guaranteed a job and there are a handful of players the Bruins could decide to go with in the fourth-line role he fills for the club. A player whose game relies on physical play and positioning, Bitz will better be able to strut his stuff in game action than in the two days of practices the team has gone through. That could mean dropping the gloves, although Bitz isn't expecting any fisticuffs -- particularly with Brashear -- tonight.
"I was talking to Thornty [teammate Shawn Thornton] about it, he says that in an exhibition he's not really that anxious [to fight], but we'll see what happens," said Bitz.
A glance farther down the Rangers' roster for Tuesday night reveals that former Boston University Hobey Baker winner Matt Gilroy should be manning the blue line. After winning the national title with the Terriers, Gilroy was an undrafted free agent who signed with New York over a number of suitors. The Bruins were reportedly one interested party.
Head coach Claude Julien explained that he expects Sabourin to play a full game in Toronto tomorrow.
"Giving you a big scoop," quipped Julien, who during the regular season sometimes won't even reveal his starting goaltender on the day of a game. So both contenders for the No. 2 goaltender job will get a chance to make their case right off the bat in the exhibition season. Oddly enough, Rask's only regular-season NHL game of the 2008-09 season was a 35-save shutout of the Rangers in Boston.
The last time Marco Sturm skated in a game, he had returned from a concussion only to suffer a knee injury in his first game back.
Sturm joked that he "feels like a rookie" in explaining his excitement about getting back into action. But he knows he has to temper his enthusiasm to stay on track for a healthy regular season.
"On the one side, it's great to play a lot of games," he explained after a pregame skate at Ristuccia Arena. "But on the other side, it's only been my third really good practice, so I've just got to be really careful."
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com. He has been on the Bruins beat since the lockout for numerous publications and has been covering the Boston sports scene for a decade. Send any questions for Matt to his mailbag and he might answer them in his Bruins mailbag.