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?
Devils send ’15 first-rounder Zacha back to junior
The move comes after Zacha, 18, impressed throughout training camp and the preseason. He appeared in four exhibition games for New Jersey, scoring one point while endearing himself to the organizational brass, coaching staff and players.
“He understands the game. He plays with a maturity. It’s crazy to think an 18-year-old coming out of high school is up here and playing with the maturity and understanding of the game with the new system,” Kyle Palmieri told NJ.com. “I think he’s got a lot of raw talent there as a power forward. He’s got the body for it, the puck-handling skills and the nose for the net.”
At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Zacha has the frame and physical stature to play at the NHL level, and looked the part for long stretches of the exhibition season, getting turns on New Jersey’s top line.
The decision to send him back to junior is probably the right one, however.
Zacha only turned 18 in April and has limited experience even at the OHL level; ’14-15 was his first year with Sarnia, though he did appear in 38 Czech League games (for Liberec) the season prior.
Raffl coverts PTO into one-year, $575K deal with Jets
On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.
Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.
“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.
With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.
For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.