Alexander Burmistrov has two pretty big bodyguards – and he’s needed them early in the season.
The 19-year-old rookie, months removed from playing in the Ontario Hockey League, has skated on a line with Ben Eager (6-2, 240) and Chris Thorburn (6-3, 230) much of the season. The two have jumped in more than once when the opposition set their sights on Burmistrov.
Take Friday’s game against Tampa Bay. At the 4:27 mark of the third period, Burmistrov got called for an interference penalty after tangling with the Lightning’s Steve Downie. Pushing and shoving ensued for several minutes. The action started up again on two occasions after things appeared to have settled down. In the end, Burmistrov was flanked again by Eager and Thorburn – this time in the penalty box. Eager got a roughing and a 10-minute misconduct penalty. Thorburn got a roughing penalty.
“I think in the third period we defended ourselves,” Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay said after the game. “You’ve got Downie going after Burmistrov and we have three guys in the penalty box. That’s just ridiculous.”
Eager also got a fighting major after protecting Burmistrov in San Jose. It’s all part of the job, said Thorburn.
“He got tied up with one of their guys,” Thorburn said of Friday’s incident. “It’s mine and Benny’s job to get in there and make sure he’s all right. He’s a young kid. We’re just trying to help him out. He’s strong enough to handle his own but he shouldn’t have to in those situations.
“He plays hard so he’s going to get on team’s nerves. That’s his style. It’s a good thing. Me and Benny are there on each side of him to make sure everything stays under control.”