Mark Stuart wasted little time.
Midway through his second period as a Thrasher, the newly-acquired defenseman dropped his gloves to defend a hit on teammate Evander Kane.
“I didn’t plan on getting into a fight, but it was good to get one in there,” said Stuart of his bout with Edmonton’s Jean-Francois Jacques Saturday.
Stuart and forward Blake Wheeler were obtained from Boston Friday. They arrived just in time for the Thrashers’ final 23 games, reinforcements for a team and its fading playoff hopes. They jumped right into the fire as the Thrashers travel to Buffalo for Wednesday’s game against teams tied with 60 points in the Eastern Conference – four points out of the final playoff position.
Injuries have plagued Stuart over the past two seasons. He was limited to 31 games in Boston this season by a broken hand injury. He played just 56 games last season with hand, finger and sternum injuries. Stuart hoped this year would be a new beginning. He got his new start – it just came five months later and in a new city.
“Last year was tough with the injuries,” said Stuart, the brother of former Thrasher Colin. “There were a few weird injuries and I was out with those. This past summer, I was looking at this season as a new beginning and unfortunately the injury bug hit me again with the hand. It’s been a struggle since then. I’m very excited for this new opportunity. It’s definitely a new beginning.”
Stuart, 6-foot-2, 213 pounds, played in Boston under Craig Ramsay, who was an assistant with the Bruins before taking over the Thrashers. The coach said he will count on the edge Stuart brings to the ice – especially on the penalty kill. The Thrashers are 29th in the NHL on the special team. Allowing three third-period power-play goals and losing a 3-1 lead in Saturday’s loss to the Oilers didn’t help.
“[Stuart] will block shots,” Ramsay said. “[Opponents] are not always happy to be around him. That is an important part of what he brings. He’s quick and he has a little bit of a mean streak. He’s got a good stick. When he’s good with the stick, it can be very effective.”
It’s been a strange journey for Patrick Rissmiller. The forward did not make the Thrashers roster out of training camp after arriving in an off-season trade with the New York Rangers. He started the season at AHL Chicago but after a lack of playing time was loaned to AHL Lake Erie.
The Thrashers re-called Rissmiller on Tuesday and he could make his debut against the Sabres. Ramsay dressed seven defensemen against the Oilers, but said he is leaning toward going back to six and dressing the team’s 12 healthy forwards.
“It can be frustrating,” Rissmiller said of his wait to get back to the NHL. “It’s not an easy business sometimes. You have to be patient. It’s something that’s happened throughout my career. I’ve never been the first guy. I just kind of have to battle and be as patient as I can. It’s hard. You are always wondering when it’s going to be your turn or why it’s not your turn. You stick with what you can do.”
Rissmiller, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound left wing, has played in 180 NHL games over four seasons with San Jose, including 79 each in 2006-07 and 2007-08. He played two games with the Rangers in 2008-09 and spent all of last season in the AHL.
Ramsay said Rissmiller “looked pretty good” in Tuesday’s practice.
The 32-year-old had 31 points (12 goals and 19 assists) in 48 AHL games with Chicago and Lake Erie.