Calgary Flames forward Mikael Backlund recorded the first fight of his National Hockey League career on Friday.
He also had the instigator and misconduct for a whopping 17 minutes in penalties, after challenging Anaheim Ducks defenseman Ben Lovejoy in the first period of the Flames’ 3-1 victory on home ice. The fight didn’t last long. Backlund, a little out of his element, found himself off balance when he tried to land a right haymaker.
But what set Backlund off like that? In one play, his 12 penalty minutes on the season shot up to 29. He’s never had more than 18 penalty minutes in a season since he first entered the league in the 2008-09 season.
The video provides the answer. Lovejoy delivered a knee-on-knee hit on Flames forward Curtis Glencross, who left the game and did not return. Dropping the gloves with Lovejoy earned Backlund the nickname “Rocky” from head coach Bob Hartley afterward, according to the Flames official Twitter account.
Could Lovejoy, who was assessed an interference minor on the play, be expecting supplementary discipline from the league for the knee-on-knee hit?
Byron, 26, is a veteran of nearly 150 career NHL games, most coming with the Flames. Despite fairly solid production over the last two years — 40 points in 104 games — he was exposed to waivers on Monday, along with fellow forward Mason Raymond.
(Calgary does have a logjam of players at forward, hence parting ways with Byron and Raymond.)
Byron can play both wing and center but, at 5-foot-7, 153 pounds, is one of the most undersized skaters in the league. Thankfully for him, Montreal has an affinity for undersized forwards, with the likes of Brendan Gallagher (5-foot-9, 184 pounds) and David Desharnais (5-foot-7, 174 pounds) already on the active roster.
Byron could also fill Zack Kassian‘s roster spot. Kassian is currently suspended without pay while undergoing Stage 2 of the NHL’s Substance Abuse program.