Ron Rolston tried to be diplomatic Wednesday when addressing the fine he received from the National Hockey League as part of the fallout from Sunday’s brawl in Toronto. But the Buffalo Sabres’ first-year coach said the league’s message will have to be heeded by all bench bosses.
“It will definitely be in the mind-set,” Rolston said. “They don’t want altercations like that and how it escalated. They are concerned with that. They want coaches in the future to be mindful of it.”
Rolston was fined for “player selection and team conduct” with the player selection aspect a clear reflection of his use of enforcer John Scott against Toronto’s Phil Kessel.
Scott had been on the ice when Toronto’s Jamie Devane fought Corey Tropp, leading to a broken jaw suffered by Tropp that the Sabres said Wednesday will keep the winger out of action for five to six weeks. The full line brawl erupted before the puck was dropped again.
“It’s just more reputation but he had played the whole game, played well and was playing a good game for us,” Rolston said of Scott. “He had an assist on the first goal. He’s worked hard on his game to play hockey too. But I think obviously reputation is a big part of that.”
Tropp’s injury left the Sabres down three forwards because of injuries to Cody McCormick and Marcus Foligno. He had already played nearly nine minutes and certainly would have pushed the 11-12 range on a regular shift over the final 10 minutes.
“I don’t think it was that unrealistic I would be out there,” Scott said.
“I don’t know what kind of precedent that sets but I never knew you couldn’t put who you want on the ice,” added Sabres winger Steve Ott. “That’s a very confusing thing. I don’t understand how they came about it.”
The league did not disclose the amount of Rolston’s fine but it’s believed both he and Toronto coach Randy Carlyle were hit $10,000, with Caryle’s fine coming as part of David Clarkson’s automatic 10-game suspension for leaving the bench.
“I was pretty surprised,” Scott said. “I didn’t expect that. I was a little shocked by it. … It was strange because I was already on the ice and we had first change. I think it’s foreign territory as far as player selection and coaches getting fined.”
“I get the whole incidents for the second line change if Ron was to put him out there and something would start to create a scene,” Ott said. “There was no intention of creating a scene there.”
Scott said he had no problem with the three-game preseason suspension handed to Kessel for chopping at Scott’s legs with his stick.
“It’s one of those things he’s just protecting himself,” Scott said. “I would have done the same thing.”
Cracked Ott about Kessel, “Well, I’m sure he’s pretty excited to be missing the rest of preseason.”
Asked during Wednesday’s game against Columbus if he was surprised Rolston was fined, General Manager Darcy Regier smiled and said, “a little bit.”
“I guess the only thing he could have done was pull John off the ice,” Regier said. “ … As Ron and I discussed, it’s a tough position for him to be in.”
Regier spoke to NHL executives Colin Campbell and Brendan Shanahan over the incident, the first full-scale brawl in a Sabres game since the infamous dust-up here with Ottawa in 2007. That also ended in a goalie fight, between Martin Biron and Ray Emery.
“I think there was concern about the incident on a league level,” Regier said. “It’s one of those things the last time we had a situation like that was when Chris Neil hit Chris Drury. That’s quite a few years ago. They don’t happen very often, which is probably a good thing.”
The Sabres’ lineup for Wednesday’s game against Columbus featured an all-first-round pick line of Mikhail Grigorenko centering Zemgus Girgensons and Joel Armia. Cody Hodgson centered Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford, Tyler Ennis was between Ott and Ville Leino and Johan Larsson was between Scott and Patrick Kaleta
On defense, Henrik Tallinder and Tyler Myers were paired together for the first time since Tallinder returned to the team this season. Of course, they spent Myers’ entire 2009-10 Calder Trophy season together.
Rolston said he wanted to get Mark Pysyk some time playing with Christian Ehrhoff after Pysyk had spent most of camp with Tallinder.
“I think he’s been playing great in the games he’s played,” Tallinder said of Myers. “He looks tremendous to me. That’s hockey. Confidence. That’s what it is. If you’re afraid of making mistakes or trying to push it too hard, things will not happen for you. You just have to relax in a good way.”
Rolston said McCormick (hand) could play in Friday night’s preseason finale at Carolina. Foligno has an upper-body muscle strain and will not play in that game, but Rolston said he expects Foligno to be ready for the season opener next Wednesday in Detroit.
Not playing for Buffalo Wednesday were Nakita Zadorov, Luke Adam, Brian Flynn, Kevin Porter and Alexander Sulzer.