By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Has anyone seen Darren Langdon lately? Maybe on the ice at the Garden? In the sin bin? How about on a milk carton?
Once considered among the top two or three scrappers in the game, Langdon has hardly seen any time in battle over the past two seasons, thanks in large part to the unremarkable coaching decisions of head mannequin, er, coach John Sch-Muckler. Not only are the Blueshirts a shadow of their former selves in terms of overall play, they are among the weakest groups in the NHL when it comes to throwin' the dukes.
Usually in the first division when it comes to team fighting totals, the punchless Ranger Ricks have dropped the mitts a measly 16 times so far this seasonas many as individual league leader Ian LaPerriere of the L.A. Kings has all by himself. Only two years ago, Garden lads totaled 68 fighting majors, good for 11th in the league that season. Leading the way was the always willing Langdon with 21 battles under his belt.
While the Rangers have a pathetic total of exactly two fights since December 19 (and both of those were in the same gameagainst the Islanders), the Isles have racked up 17 bouts in that time frame. The aforementioned Cairns, now with the Islanders, has shown great improvement in the ice ring from his early Ranger days. And a second wave of rugged and ready playersfrom veteran hooligan Gino Odjick to earnest youngsters Brad Isbister, Dave Scatchard, Steve Webb, and the towering 6-9 Zdeno Charahave teams thinking twice about an easy night when they head out to Uniondale, making it one gritty city down on the Island these days. Until next time, see ya in the sin bin!
More of the season's scintillating slugfests:
What a game for bruiser Belak. First, he reaches the boiling point with the diminutive Vandenbussche, laying a beating on the Blackhawk bad boy's beak with heavy left hands. Then in period 2 it's a big-time battle royale with king Probya fight that sees Belak more than hold his own, as he strips Probert of his jersey, leaving the legendary Chicago shotgunner in a disheveled state on his way to the sin bin.
Isles' sergeant-at-arms Cairns lays down the law in this dustup. The two sluggers extraordinaire drop the hammer on each other's brain buckets until they can take no more. Cairns leaves with a mere bloodied sniffer, while Simpson earns a broken jaw and a trip to milkshake city for a couple of months.
Jan. 15 Stephane Quintal (NYR) vs. Eric Cairns (NYI)
Crosstown cruiserweights meet on the Island in a heavy hitter. Cairns lands more clean shots, but Quintal shows a bit of heart by absorbing a few before getting into position to land a bevy of blows, giving the Ranger regulars reason to cheer.
Jan. 19 Brad Brown (CHI) vs. Krystoff Oliwa (NJ)
A rematch of heavyweights here, as Oliwa looks for revenge after absorbing a bloody beating at the hands of Brown earlier this year. They square off behind the play in this early-game grappler. Both fighters fire away with big-time bombs before hitting the deck in a dome-denting draw.
Jan. 30 Ryan Vandenbussche (CHI) vs. Jason Strudwick (VAN)
Vandenbussche will back down from no one, and continues his one-man show of belligerence by taking the challenge from Canuck knuckle chucker Strudwick. Although outreached and outweighed by the brawnier Strudwick, Vandenbussche won't stop and the Hawks' wailing winger gets another victory behind strong and accurate left-hand leads.
Jan. 31 Matthew Barnaby (PIT) vs. Roman Ndur (ATL)
Barnaby's the guy everyone loves to hate. Add Ndur to that list after he spends the first half of this square dance eating the knuckles on Barnaby's right-hand jackhammer. Ndur gets straightened out and throws a salvo of his own, but Barnaby's early-fight flurry leaves Ndur dazed and confused for too long.