WINNIPEG, Manitoba — In one way, Tyler Randell had good timing.
The year after Randell concluded his eligibility in junior hockey, the OHL changed its rules about fighting. Starting in 2012-13, the season after Randell’s over-age year, the OHL declared a 10-fight threshold. For every additional fight a player logged, he would automatically draw a two-game suspension.
The amendment would not have been kind to Randell.
“I would have been in trouble,” said the bruising Bruin. “I had 21 one year. So I would have sat a few games.”
In another way, Randell’s timing couldn’t have been worse.
During the NHL’s earlier eras, Randell would have been guaranteed a big-league paycheck and a regular spot in the lineup. The 24-year-old winger is proving to his opponents that he’s among the tougher cats in the league. On Tuesday, Randell got the better of Los Angeles widebody Kyle Clifford in a first-period fight.
Randell’s strength, technique, and punching power make him a dangerous bare-knuckled chucker. He could have been a good replacement for Shawn Thornton — a tough guy who could play the game.
Despite his thunderous assets, Randell has had a suit on more often than he’s had his gloves off.
On Thursday, Randell dressed for his 22d game of the season, against Winnipeg, playing 7:43 alongside Zac Rinaldo and Max Talbot. He has been a healthy scratch 33 times. Before Randell got in against the Kings, he had been scratched for 12 straight games, his longest out-of-uniform stretch.
The element that helped make him the Bruins’ sixth-round pick in 2009 is disappearing fast. One of Randell’s strengths is becoming unnecessary.
“Honestly, I didn’t think it would change this much,” Randell said.
Awareness regarding head injuries and the concussion lawsuits filed against the league have played a part in the NHL’s movement away from fighting. Players like Randell, who did not have NHL service time prior to 2013-14, are required to wear visors. Fighters are not allowed to remove their helmets during a throwdown.
At the same time, general managers have wised up about allocating a roster spot to enforcers when they rarely have dance partners. Chris Thorburn, who handles the rough stuff for Winnipeg, has appeared in every game for the Jets because he can skate and check and play defense, not because he’s good without his gloves.
Randell wasn’t always a fighter. In Belleville, where he was teammates with Matt Beleskey and P.K. Subban, Randell was a power forward. In 2009-10, after being traded to Kitchener, Randell fought more often. It continued once he turned pro. Last year, according to hockeyfights.com, Randell fought 14 times in Providence.
But as the NHL has deemphasized fighting, Randell has had to round out the other parts of his game.
He’s made the most of his limited opportunities. Randell scored his fifth goal of the season against the Kings.
“Give him credit,” said coach Claude Julien. “He’s got five goals already. In the games he’s played in, he’s also been gritty. He defends his teammates.
“The thing with him is he’s got to keep up with the pace of the game on a nightly basis. He’s worked hard at trying to do that.”
Randell never wanted to be a one-dimensional fighter. He’s getting his wish.
Subban out 8 weeks
Goaltender Malcolm Subban was released from Massachusetts Eye and Ear Wednesday after undergoing surgery Monday to repair a fractured larynx. He will not play for at least eight weeks, which could end his season. The Providence Bruins’ last game is on April 17.
Subban was injured during warm-ups Saturday before Providence’s game against Portland. He was treated at Portland’s Maine Medical Center before being transported to Massachusetts General Hospital the next day.
Subban is 14-8-5 with a 2.46 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage.
He was recalled to Boston to back up Tuukka Rask for one game while Jonas Gustavsson was on injured reserve.
Jeremy Smith, who was loaned to Minnesota’s AHL club after training camp, has since been recalled to Providence.
Rare fight for Bergeron
Patrice Bergeron (two goals) led all players with nine shots on net despite playing a season-low 14:25. He spent five minutes in the box after tangling with old friend Blake Wheeler. “A few slashes, stickwork from me, and him as well,” Bergeron said of what preceded the fight. “We talked about it. It was really spur of the moment. It wasn’t anything left over from the time he spent with us.” It was Bergeron’s second career regular-season fight . . . There were two fights in the first period: Rinaldo vs. Thorburn and Beleskey vs. Tyler Myers . . . Brett Connolly recorded a career-high three assists . . . Loui Eriksson skated as the No. 3 left wing alongside Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Hayes. Eriksson had been David Krejci’s left wing for the last nine games . . . Landon Ferraro was the healthy scratch up front. Ferraro has not scored since Dec. 18 . . . Adam McQuaid is on the trip and participated in the morning skate. The defenseman could play sometime during this six-game swing . . . Colin Miller was the healthy scratch on defense for the third straight game.