By Mike Harrington
What should have been a routine September Monday in Sabres training camp turned into a bit of media circus this afternoon as reporters and camera crews from Toronto showed up at First Niagara Center to get the day-after thoughts about Sunday night's brawl with the Leafs in the Air Canada Centre.
The star of the show was Sabres enforcer John Scott, who was unavailable to the media Sunday. The 6-foot-8 Scott stood tall in front of his locker and calmly answered every question he got Monday, pointing out that he was not targeting Leafs star Phil Kessel. In the wake of Jamie Devane's beatdown of Corey Tropp a few seconds earlier, the Sabres were not going to be picky.
"I said, 'Phil I think we're going to have to go here, just to let you know,' " Scott said. "I would have went after who ever they put lined up next to me. I don't know what their coach had in mine. I wasn't trying to hurt him. I was just trying to send a message."
Scott and the Sabres were surprised Leafs coach Randy Carlyle -- who had the last line change -- opted for a scoring line in that situation rather than tough guy Troy Bodie. Did Scott break hockey's unwritten code that an enforcer shouldn't engage a star?
"Hey, I'd be pissed off if someone went after my star guy too," Scott said. "It's one of those things. Their coach didn't have to put Kessel out with me.
Scott said his legs are surprised from the stick swings Kessel took against him and that he was surprised by the reaction from the Leafs star.
"John is a big guy but we don't really want to see somebody using their stick as a weapon," said goaltender Ryan Miller, who had his first pro fight with Jonathan Bernier as part of the punchup. "I think he tried to do it three or four times. he went out of his way to pick up his gloves, pick up his stick and come back and do it again. It's disappointing to see that."
Kessel got a match penalty and is likely to get suspended. So is Leafs forward David Clarkson, who should get an automatic 10-game ban for leaving the bench. There has been no ruling by the league yet. As for Miller, Scott joked they would be working on his technique when reporters left the locker room.
"I think my defense was OK. Offense to be worked on in the future I think," Miller said. "I was kinda surprised he wanted to square off. I guess new team, line brawl. I was a little surprised just because it's preseason but hey, you're in Toronto and you get challenged, you can't really back down."
Coach Ron Rolston is taking a beating from some segments of the Toronto media for having Scott on the ice but noted Scott played a pretty regular shift in the game -- even assisting on Buffalo's first goal -- and the Sabres were down forwards at the time due to injuries to Tropp, Marcus Foligno and Cody McCormick.
Asked by a Toronto reporter about having an enforcer take on a much smaller star, a stern Rolston shot back, "What was the weight class in the one that happened before that? EVeryone is going to have a story. It just depends on what you go with."
Rolston also pointed out that Carlyle had been making line matchups all night but decided not to at the game's defining moment.
In other news, Rolston said Tropp and Foligno (shoulder) were still being evaluated. McCormick (hand) could play Wednesday. The Sabres sent Chad Ruhwehdel, Brayden McNabb, Mike Zigomanis and Matt Hackett to Rochester, with Matt Ellis and Drew Bagnall going pending waivers. The Sabres are down to nine defensemen with rookies Rasmus Ristolainen and Nakita Zadorov still in the mix.
taggedJohn Scott | Ron Rolston | Ryan Miller | Toronto Maple Leafs