CHRIS THORBURN took one for the team Tuesday. And, if called upon, he'll do it again on Thursday. And Saturday. And Sunday. And...
The Winnipeg Jets veteran winger squared off with Leafs tough guy Colton Orr in Tuesday's win and drew praise afterward from teammates and coaches for helping set the tone in what was an impressive performance highlighted by the team's collective grit and speed.
"To be honest, man, it felt great," said Thorburn of his teammates' reaction. "I had a couple of guys come up to me and give me pat on the back and that goes a long way in giving me confidence and just knowing that you're doing the right thing.
"We're a tight-knit group. Whether it's a big goal, a blocked shot or a hit... it's just something that the team rallies around. Our team is so tight-knit that we can feed off it. (Tuesday) night was a big step for us in proving that we're there for each other in a pack-mentality kind of thing."
One of the toughest and most popular hombres in the Jets lineup, Thorburn has more fights this year -- six -- than goals -- one. But he does have a very clear understanding of what his gig is and it's one of the most difficult in all of sports.
"That's a tough role, that's a tough position," said coach Claude Noel. "Chris Thorburn is a really good team player that plays hard and realizes that he probably has to do that to be an NHL player. I'll tell ya, that's not an easy role. I don't think Chris is a heavyweight, but he's willing to do the things necessary for his teammates.
"That's a really tough task to get yourself motivated to do that against guys that are bigger and stronger or possibly better fighters than you. He earns a lot of respect from his teammates in being able to do that."
Having said all that, here's the thing: Thorburn would just as soon be remembered for his spectacular highlight-of-the-night goal against Buffalo last year than for dropping his mitts. But, again, he'll do whatever is required to stay in the lineup -- especially with the club's heavyweight, Anthony Peluso, currently injured.
"I think I'm a guy that can play. I can bring a lot of elements to a game, it's just I've got to do it on a consistent basis," Thorburn said.
"It's something I don't think I need to do to stay in the lineup. It's something I can offer for the team. If the team needs a boost, I'm there to do that.
"It's not like I'm out there to fight every night. It's just seeing how the game is going and judging it from there."
The anti-fighting camp will scoff at what kind of an impact Thorburn vs. Orr had on the game, but with the two men in the penalty box -- and Orr joined by Mark Fraser a few minutes later -- the Jets did score their first power-play goal in eight games.
"It seemed to spark the guys on the bench," said Thorburn "The guys feed off it, our power play went out and got a goal.
"I sat in the box and it was like, 'OK, I accomplished something.' That's the main objective."
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