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Bodie plays the body

Aggressive D-man takes costly penalty defending his teammate

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It's highly unlikely Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel will ever discourage his team from answering the physical bell. That kind of folly would be a death wish in today's NHL.

But Noel seemed to be angling for a more selective approach Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena, where a second-period incident that turned the momentum helped the Nashville Predators grab a 4-3 victory over the Jets before 14,701 fans.

The moment in question came at 11:31 of the second, when Nashville tough guy Zack Stortini took a run at Jets defenceman Toby Enstrom near the Winnipeg net.

Stortini mostly missed, but Enstrom's teammate Troy Bodie was on the scene quickly to rough up and body slam a suddenly passive Stortini.

The double-minor roughing penalty turned quickly into Predators goals by Martin Erat and Patric Hornqvist and an early Jets lead was gone for good.

The difference in the game?

"Possibly," mused Noel afterwards. "But you have to tip your hat to him. At least he stood up and tried to do what he does. That's part of his game.

"On the other hand, you've got to recognize that you might get burned. Zack Stortini did a good job for them, drawing him into that and then not dropping his gloves.

"Is it a good move? It's something you've got to figure out. These are all the things we're trying to make assessments on."

Noel refused to say if the matter would count for or against Bodie, the Portage la Prairie native who's on a training-camp tryout.

"I'll let you decide that," the coach replied.

If it was up to Bodie's teammate Chris Thorburn, a physical returning regular from the Atlanta roster, the answer would be easy.

"I probably would have done the same thing," Thorburn said. "Bodes is there for that stuff, too, and he's just protecting a high-quality defenceman that we have.

"I thought (Stortini) could have got a charging call on the play. Bodes just took it upon himself to deal with the situation but unfortunately, he got a four-minute minor. As a penalty-kill, we've got to step up and get that kill for him because he stepped up for a teammate."

Thorburn himself stood up to Stortini and fought him in the first period after the Predators' tough guy again flew recklessly into a check.

In that confrontation, Stortini dropped his gloves.

"I definitely want to be a physical presence and a guy who sticks up for my teammates," Thorburn said. "That's kind of the mentality we're going to have, a blue-collared team and to do it as a unit.

"We've had incidents like this where teammates have stepped up. That's just great to see. It was just something I thought I felt I needed to do. A new organization, so I felt I needed to take a stand."

Bodie said he simply didn't take time to read the non-call on Stortini.

"No second thoughts," he said. "Maybe I shouldn't have been as quick to shed my mitts. I wouldn't be the guy to say no after a dirty hit like that. At least I thought it was dirty."

Noel said he didn't see Stortini's run. What he did see was a game full of plays and incidents that's helping him evaluate -- good and bad -- all the players still in camp.

"Big picture for Troy but it cost us a double-minor," the coach said later on the key play of the game. "And you've got to know who your opponents are. Stortini's been around the block.

"Yeah, they scored, and we needed to kill (the two minors) to help him out. Tough play. You lose momentum, you get four minutes, is that a good play? I understand he's trying to make the team and sometimes you have to do those things. You take everything in perspective."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 25, 2011 B5

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