Jordan Nolan has an identity as a hockey player and a role that he has to fulfill in order to remain on Darryl Sutter’s lineup card. He has to provide energy, he has to avoid taking penalties, he has to outperform the other team’s energy players, and he has to add a clear physical element.
On Sunday evening, that role included scrapping with regular and willing combatant Jared Boll, the former pugilistic but honest Blue Jacket who now etches out a similar role with the Ducks.
“It’s both of their jobs,” Sutter said. “They’re both trying to stay in the lineup.”
And they did so, exhaustively. Not “exhaustively” in the “comprehensive” sense, but in the “they were both throwing and connected a couple of times” sense. This isn’t meant to glorify fighting or make light of an aspect of hockey that leads to head, neck and brain injuries, but rather to appreciate a particular role that certain players in the league play, and to learn more about how they’re able to conserve energy in one of the most ruthless and unforgiving means of living in all of professional team sports.
“You’re pretty energized in any fight that you’re in and when one goes long, especially like that, you’re kind of worried about protecting yourself and not getting hit at the end of the fight because guys get tired and they kind of get reckless with how they throw or how they hold on to the other guy,” Nolan said. “So it’s important to kind of maintain composure and make sure you don’t get hurt.”
Surprisingly, Nolan’s third fight of the season – he also fought Clayton Stoner and Pat Maroon – was only his first career fight against Boll. Whereas Nolan has logged 23 regular season scraps, according to his HockeyFights.com tally, Boll recorded 95 between the years of 2007-11, while he was with Columbus. Boll has the reputation of a regular scrapper, but also as someone who doesn’t take liberties or “runs around.”
“I think he wanted to go with me from the little incident that happened with Getzlaf last game, so I think he had a job to do and I think he addressed it,” Nolan said. I think once we fought, I kind of finished it, so it was good.” (62.4% of HockeyFights.com voters would agree.)
It was one of the lengthier and heavier fights that the Kings have been involved in this season. “I probably didn’t notice until after I got off the ice, but during it I didn’t really notice,” Nolan said.
Kyle Clifford has also fought four times this season, including one bout with Boll. (The duo also dropped the gloves in the 2014-15 season, according to HockeyFights.com.) By that site’s tally, Los Angeles is tied for third in the league with 10 fighting majors; Anaheim leads the league with 16. But there’s no real distinct correlation between fighting majors and whether a team takes liberties on its opponents.
“Everyone on our team and their team is a pretty honest player I would say,” Nolan said “There’s no really dirty players or anyone kind of looking for that all game. They have some tough guys, we have some tough guys, so it makes for good hockey games.”
It’s a story worth mentioning on a day the Kings face the New York Islanders, a team that for the last several seasons had boasted one of the league’s best fourth lines. That’s not because they were regular fighters, but because they were capable of providing offense in addition to energy. While Cal Clutterbuck is questionable for tonight’s game, and Matt Martin has moved on to Toronto, the line is still dangerous with excellent hustle pivot Casey Cizikas, and, to his left, former Winnipeg captain Andrew Ladd.
The teams split their two meetings last year, with each team winning on home ice. There were no fighting majors in the series.
Nolan, on knowing whether he’ll fight heading into a game:
I think if you have a previous game where you maybe do something to one of their top players that, I mean I think anyone would kind of notice that they have some tough guys on their team that might want to do something about it. And that’s kind of what you prepare yourself for in games like that, but I probably saw it coming and hopefully address some things and hopefully realize that if they want to push us around then they’ve got to kind of suffer some consequences. It’s going to be a battle out there, so it’s good, it makes the game a lot better for both teams and gets everyone involved.