ST. LOUIS — The Carolina Hurricanes' practice had ended Thursday and Tim Gleason was on a stationary bike, sweating hard, pushing himself.
In a way, the defenseman looked like a heavyweight fighter preparing for his next bout. You never know - Gleason's next skirmish could come tonight against the St. Louis Blues.
The last two games have seen Gleason go at it. He tangled with Paul Gaustad of the Buffalo Sabres last Friday. Then there was the matter of dealing with a wild-eyed Nathan Horton of the Boston Bruins in Tuesday's road game.
With the Canes leading the Bruins 2-1 in the third period, Horton suddenly wanted a piece of Gleason in front of the Canes' net. But Gleason refused to go, absorbing some heavy punches while having his jersey pulled over his head by Horton.
"He gave me a shot and I gave him a shot in the game," Gleason said Thursday. "He just kind of came back and I didn't know he was going to do that. It's a 2-1 hockey game."
Few people have ever seen Gleason shy away from a confrontation. If a guy hits him, he's going to hit back.
But not this time, not with Horton. Horton got a double-minor for roughing, the Canes got a 5-on-3 power play and eventually a 3-1 lead after Eric Staal scored. Carolina won 4-1.
"That won us the game. That was the difference right there," defenseman Bryan Allen said.
Are we seeing a new Tim Gleason?
"I just have to concentrate on keeping my head," Gleason said. "I have to pick my spots. There will be a time when I'll be able to do it.
"So it's not a new Tim Gleason, but maybe a little more disciplined."
The Hurricanes have guys who are willing to fight. Gleason obviously will go. So will Allen and defenseman Jay Harrison.
But as the Canes proved against the Bruins, they seem to know when to fight and when not to.
"None of those three men have to prove that they can do it," Canes coach Paul Maurice said Thursday. "That has a lot to do with it.
"There's that whole subculture in the NHL - the tough guy. When you're in your first year and somebody calls you out, you've got to answer that bell. They've all done it enough now that they can pick their spots, and not in terms of who they fight but when they fight. When we're up 2-0 on the road, we're not looking for a fight."
Against the Sabres, Gaustad first went after Allen but fought Gleason. In the third period of the Bruins game, Boston's Milan Lucic went after Gleason but wound up with Allen. Earlier in the game, Harrison and Horton looked to go, but Harrison wound up being punched by Zdeno Chara.
"Tempers were high," Gleason said of the Bruins game. "They were more frustrated and I think we knew that. We kept our composure and it helped us win that hockey game.
"I actually thought Lucic and I were going to do it but Allen came in. But that's good. We help each other out. We protect ourselves and our players."
Harrison said he can understand a team that's trailing using a fight as a rallying point, to get the home fans going. But there are unwritten rules - some of which have been broken during the past two games.
"It's not a street fight," he said. "You don't hit guys when they're down. When refs come in, usually hands come off.
"It varies with different guys as to what they think is fair and not fair. But nobody likes to get jumped and nobody likes to get hit over the top. I personally don't like getting punched over referees."
Chara did that to Harrison. That caused Canes goalie Cam Ward to come over and have words with the 6-foot-9 Chara.
Could it be that the Canes are a more physical bunch than most would believe?
"I don't think as a team, we're built to be that kind of team," Allen said. "But as a group, I think we can handle it."
Maurice said he expects Gleason, Allen and Harrison to continue to pick their spots this season. To be wise. Be disciplined.
"Probably each one of them over the course of the year is going to get into one we don't want," he said. "But they all seem willing enough and I'm happy that they will."