Happy Friday, hockey fans. It’s that time again – when the going gets tough, the tough get fighting here on Fisticuffs Friday.

We’re now three weeks and about a quarter of the way into this NHL season, and over 100 skaters have come to blows already! To see all of this week’s battles, hop over to HockeyFights.com. Hockey Fights provides video of all fights around the league, but also of fights from across the entire hockey landscape. Check it out!

Before we get to this week’s fight of the week, I want to make an acknowledgement. In starting this weekly column, I related that I wanted to observe and honor fighting’s role in the game for the reason it was intended – not in efforts to promote “goonery.” In a move that showed a lot of class, Max Talbot dropped the gloves with Ryan Callahan, but then dropped the issue when he realized that Callahan was obviously injured. If you haven’t already seen it, the video is here:

Talbot is infamous for a fight against Philly while he was in a Pens uniform, and he’s probably even more infamous for turning coat and taking the money in Philadelphia as a free agent later, but a move like this shows a lot of character. Stick taps to Talbot.

After the first few weeks of the season have delivered definitive, hard-hitting, clear cut choices for a Fight of the Week, this week was a bit different. Fighting was down a bit, so it wasn’t quite as easy to make a call. This may be an unpopular choice, but I have to give this week’s fight of the week selection to Zac Rinaldo versus BJ Crombeen.

It was largely a one-way fight – and Rinaldo is traditionally a pest/goon type player. However, in this instance, he is fighting to protect and stand up for young asset Brayden Schenn. Crombeen is a tough customer, but Rinaldo doesn’t shy away in stepping up to defend his teammate.

Courtesy of Hockey Fights (link above), here’s the brawl in case you missed it:
Fisticuffs Friday – February 8th, 2013 – Fight of the Week

Two guys who are no strangers to dropping the gloves agree to tangle. Philadelphia has been struggling for much of the year, and Tampa has brought a more physical edge to their game in finding some success this year thus far. Rinaldo fights here to bring some energy to his club, and winning the fight certainly achieved that end.

Crombeen leads with a right, but that allows Rinaldo a chance to get a nice offensive hold on Crombeen. Zac throws some hard rights from top to bottom, and because of his strong position in holding onto Crombeen, he is able to turn to divert many of Crombeen’s attempted rights and body blows. After Rinaldo sheds his elbow pad, he throws some heavy rights like pounding hammers to Crombeen’s head.

The controversial part of this fight that had me hesitant to name it the Fight of the Week comes when Rinaldo continues to throw a few punches as Crombeen is on the way down. In my eyes, Crombeen is still holding on, and would have been able to get back up. That being said, it is general code to let a guy go when he’s going down. This wasn’t as bad as beating on a guy who had gone all the way to the ice, but it walks the line on being dangerous. It is with some reservation, but the impressiveness of Rinaldo’s win is enough for me to call this one the fight of the week.

In a week where fighting was just a bit down, Zenon Konopka made a late push to take this week’s fighter of the week crown. He went 2-0-0, and he did it in one game, versus one other fighter. Vancouver’s Dale Weise was on the wrong end of a lot of right hands, and Konopka had a strong showing in the two tilts to differentiate himself from the field.

Brandon Prust has continued to do what Montreal brought him into town to do. He’s basically serving as a body guard to the two talented youngsters (Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher), and he’s yet to lose a fight this year. He takes the top spot this week on our fight leaderboard:

Fight Leaderboard
Name Team Pos. Record TKOs
Brandon Prust MTL RW 3-0-1 0
Zenon Konopka MIN C 2-0-2 0
Colton Orr TOR RW 2-0-1 1
Jordan Nolan LAK RW 2-0-0 0
Ryane Clowe SJ RW 2-0-0^ 0

We’ve been averaging one suspension per week since we started the season. That same number holds true this week. Washington Capitals defenseman John Erskine was given a call by league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan for this hit on Flyers’ forward Wayne Simmonds.

It’s a nasty elbow, and it is targeted directly to the head. It was reckless and warranted the 3-game suspension it carried. However, I don’t believe that this hit was malicious enough to deserve this week’s Goon Move of the Week. Erskine knew he was going to get beat, and as a defenseman you always feel that instinct to slow up a guy any way possible. This was not the right way, but the intent to injure was not there, at least in my mind.

Though this suspension was the largest, I feel the Schenn and McDonald suspensions were handed out on more malicious and dangerous plays.

A play that I believe should have warranted a suspension, however, belonged to Columbus Blue Jackets’ forward Brandon Dubinsky. He’s the recipient of this week’s Goon Move of the Week for his vicious and malicious hit on Kings’ defenseman Rob Scuderi. Though Dubinsky was fined $10,000, I think that he should have been sitting out for a few games – though maybe it’s more of a punishment to have to play for the Blue Jackets.
Fisticuffs Friday – February 8th, 2013 – Goon Move of the Week
To borrow a term from Dubinsky’s former coach, John Tortorella, that was just a gutless play.

Suspension Leaderboard
Name Team Pos. Sus. GS
John Erskine WAS D 1 3
Colin McDonald NYI RW 1 2
Brayden Schenn PHI RW 1 1

*GS represents games suspended

That brings us to this week’s overall leaderboard. Something encouraging that we’ve found thus far is that none of the fighters atop the leaderboard have been involved in suspendable plays. Staged fights are not quite as harmful to the game as the type of goonish play that can result in suspensions, so I view this as being a positive thing.

Undefeated Brandon Prust takes the top spot this week on the overall leaderboard. About a quarter of the way through the season, he’s got to be an early favorite to take down the year’s crown. Will Colton Orr, Jared Boll, or other tough guys have something to say about that? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Overall Leaderboard  
Name Team Pos. Pts. Ded. Tot.
Brandon Prust MTL RW 7 0 7
Jared Boll CBJ RW 7 .5 6.5
Zenon Konopka MIN C 6 .5 5.5
Colton Orr TOR RW 5 .5 4.5
Stu Bickel NYR D 4 0 4^

* Ded. represents suspension and "staged fight" deductions
* Tot represents the total points after suspension deductions are calculated

^6 other fighters are tied with 4 points .

That’s all for this week’s installment of “Fisticuffs Friday.”

Remember to keep tracking fights as they come up – your feedback is helpful in determining winners and losers! Tweet fight feedback to me. Post it on the Faceoff-Factor Facebook Page. Or, comment in the article comments from the previous week – I’ll get your opinions one way or another.

Until next time, happy hunting, hockey fans.