PITTSBURGH – With staged fights between enforcers essentially a thing of the past, pugilistic battles typically come after a big hit. Many bemoan the fact that even clean checks result in fisticuffs.
Josh Gorges isn't among the many.
The Sabres defenseman barreled through Montreal's Brendan Gallagher on Saturday, then had to answer for the legal blow by fighting Jordie Benn. Gorges wouldn't have it any other way.
"I love that fact about hockey," Gorges said Tuesday. "I love that it's a physical game. Guys are there to stick up for their teammates. That's what separates hockey from all the other sports. We're allowed to do that.
"Yeah, you sit in the box and you get a penalty, but he's out there doing his job, sticking up for his teammates. If one of our guys got hit, we'd go and do the same thing. It just sends a message to your team, I think, that you're there to stick up for each other.
"I think that's the great thing about hockey."
Buffalo entered Tuesday's game against Pittsburgh on a fighting run. There had been fights in three straight games, and all came after a hit.
Buffalo's Jake McCabe fought Tom Wilson after the Washington forward lambasted Sam Reinhart. Jordan Nolan fought Michael Haley after the Florida forward high-sticked Nathan Beaulieu. Gorges dropped the gloves with Benn.
The defenseman's fight came after he missed nine games with a lower-body injury. He was a healthy scratch for the opening three games, played in four straight then went down with the ailment.
Gorges played in his second straight game Tuesday and hopes his physical play keeps him in the lineup.
"I've got to do what I can to, 1) help this team win games, and, 2) show that I can stay in the lineup and be someone that can be of some use," Gorges said in PPG Paints Arena. "If that means being a little more physical when the opportunity is there, then I've got to take advantage."
Gorges skated with Beaulieu while Victor Antipin was the healthy scratch.
"He brings a lot of energy and attitude to the game," Sabres coach Phil Housley said of Gorges. "He answers the bell. That's the competitive nature in him. It's great to see that emotion come out."
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The Sabres are once again hoping Justin Bailey finds consistency in his return to Rochester.
With Bailey healed after missing five games with a lower-body injury, Buffalo has sent the right winger back to the Amerks.
"He's been off for a while, get his timing back, get some confidence back," Housley said.
In the continuation of a trend, Bailey played well after arriving in Buffalo. He had two goals, three points and eight shots in his opening four games.
In the next three, he had no points and two shots.
"I thought he started out really well the first couple games," Housley said. "I thought his played dipped a little from that, that urgency he had on the forecheck, using his speed and even in providing a physical element.
"He's going to go down, work on that, get his timing back."
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Gorges represented Canada in the 2004 world juniors along with a kid named Sidney Crosby, who was three years younger than most of the other players. Even then, Gorges saw something special in the future Penguins captain, Stanley Cup champion and surefire Hall of Famer.
"You knew he was a special talent," Gorges said. "He was 16 at the time, and I think they were kind of easing him in. He wasn't our top-line guy who was leading the charge, but at 16 years old, you see what he could do then. You knew he was an unbelievable player.
"Did you know he was going to turn out to be what he is today? I don't know if I could have said that, but you knew he was going to be something special. There's no question."
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The Sabres will hold their annual Thanksgiving turkey drive from 6 to 9 a.m. Thursday. For every 20-pound turkey donated, the Sabres will hand out two tickets to an upcoming game. There is a four-ticket maximum per person.
The team collected more than 2,000 turkeys last year. This year's drive will again benefit the Buffalo City Mission and the Food Bank of WNY.
“Thousands of our neighbors in need are assisted in the three short hours of this event," said Tara Ellis, president of the Food Bank of WNY. "It is a truly beautiful thing to see.”
Turkeys may be exchanged for tickets at three locations: the KeyBank Center surface lot (enter from Baltimore Street via Perry Street); Wegmans at 675 Alberta Drive in Amherst; and the Wegmans at 370 Orchard Park Road in West Seneca.
With help from 250 volunteers, the Buffalo City Mission will feed 6,000 housebound or hungry people on Thanksgiving.
"We are thankful to the Buffalo Sabres for once again providing turkeys to help make this endeavor possible another year,” said Stuart Harper, CEO and executive director of the Buffalo City Mission. “Last year alone, the Buffalo City Mission provided over 171,000 meals and over 79,000 nights of safe sleep shelter. With homelessness increasing 9 percent last year and expected to rise again this year, the need is so great.”