NASHVILLE – Kurtis Gabriel has a black eye and little nicks all over his face. His right hand looks like it has been through a meat grinder, and the middle finger on the same hand is stitched and bandaged.
“I’m not here for personal glory in fighting. I’m here to help the team,” Gabriel insisted before Thursday’s game against the Predators. “We’re always going to take care of each other, and hopefully that starts to percolate the rest of the team. We don’t take any trash from anyone.”
In Gabriel’s seven games this season, he has gotten into four fights. In 10 NHL games, he’s been in six.
Asked if there comes a point where Gabriel is fighting too much and risking injury, coach Bruce Boudreau deadpanned, “You tell him.”
“Eventually they all taper down,” Boudreau said. “He’s still in his infancy in playing in the NHL, so everybody that’s tough wants to challenge the new guy. That’ll turn around. It always does.
“He’s a good physical player, and with good physical players that are young, they are going to get challenged all the time.”
Gabriel, who has gotten into 31 American Hockey League fights and 37 Ontario Hockey League fights, said: “I think it’s the other way around. Actually, it’s me challenging them. It’s me making a name for myself in this league. I made a name for myself down [in the minors], but this is another animal. I want to gain the respect of the other guys that do the job but also let them know you’re not going to take any [idiocy]. When I get into a fight, I’m trying to hurt them. If they’re trying to hurt me, I’m trying to hurt them back.”
Boudreau said he won’t ask Gabriel to change the way he’s playing “because it’s obviously been successful for the team.”
The Wild is 6-0-1 since Gabriel was recalled, and the theory is the team drew energy from some of Gabriel’s fights.
“I want to be a fourth-liner right now that’s impactful every game, whether that’s a big hit, whether that cycling in the offensive zone, whether it’s fighting,” Gabriel said. “I’m going to do whatever it takes to help this team to win and ultimately to stay here.”
Gabriel said having a wounded right hand won’t stop him from fighting, even though he’s not nearly as good at throwing lefts.
“You might know you’re going to go in and lose,” Gabriel said, “but sometimes that might be the intention and [you] take some hits to the head for the boys and maybe get them fired up that I’m doing my job and they can go do theirs.”
Race is on
The Wild’s Eric Staal has nine goals and his brother, Jordan, who plays for Carolina, has six. Eric joked he’d have 15 goals if he converted his breakaways.
“We’re in a heated battle for a nice, expensive bottle of red [wine],” Staal said.
Less than two years after assuming Phil Falcone’s minority stake of the Wild, Matt Hulsizer is officially out, a source said.
Majority owner Craig Leipold has bought Hulsizer’s 27 percent share of the team. That brings Leipold’s stake to nearly 95 percent. In August, Leipold said the decision to buy out Hulsizer was driven by the Chicago businessman’s desire to be more involved in hockey decisions and to eventually own a larger chunk of the franchise. Leipold wants to keep the Wild in his family long-term.
“I’m in this for the long run,” Leipold said then.