Eric Godard stood before his stall in the Penguins' locker room yesterday and, blood seeping from a gash over his right eye, pondered a fairly straightforward question:
Does he, as one of the league's more accomplished heavyweights, find it to be more fun to win a fight or to score a goal?
His answer came quickly. And rather emphatically.
• What: Penguins vs. Tampa Bay Lightning in the preseason opener, 7:38 p.m.
• Where: Mellon Arena.
"Scoring a goal gets you pretty excited," Godard said, smiling. "Because it doesn't happen as much."
Truth be told, it's not even close.
Godard, who is scheduled to be in the lineup when the Penguins face Tampa Bay at 7:38 p.m. today in their preseason opener at Mellon Arena, has appeared in 200 regular-season NHL games. In that time, he has three goals, five assists and unofficially 49 fights. Twenty-one -- 10th-highest total in the league -- came last season, when he played for Calgary.
The Penguins signed Godard, 28, as an unrestricted free agent in July after deciding they were unable, or unwilling, to spend the money required to retain enforcer Georges Laraque, who subsequently went to Montreal.
Laraque is widely regarded as the premier heavyweight in the league, but Godard -- who cracks the top 10 on most lists, and the top five on many -- said he feels no additional pressure because of who he is replacing.
"I'm aware of who was here and stuff like that, but I'm not here to fill his shoes," he said. "I'm here to fill my role on this team. Everyone has to have a certain role and do it for the team to be successful."
Godard, it should be noted, handles his duties with great, uh, enthusiasm, which is not the case with Laraque.
Proficient a fighter as he is -- and make no mistake, he could one-punch a rhinoceros -- Laraque has an aloof, almost scholarly, approach to that aspect of his job. Most of the time, he fights only when there is no option (that's why wise opponents almost always make certain he has one) and recoils at the thought of trading punches with anyone from outside his weight class.
But while Laraque's actions often appear to be governed by a code rooted in the Marquess of Queensberry rules, Godard often executes his duties with a nasty edge that wouldn't be out of place in an alley brawl.
"He's got meanness to him," general manager Ray Shero said.
Godard was bloodied during the training-camp scrimmage yesterday, but his wound was caused by a stick, not a fist.
Although Godard doesn't have to worry about proving himself to his new bosses -- "Our people have always liked him," Shero said -- he believes that there are some benefits to having a fight or two before the regular season begins.
"You have to get in a few to get the feeling back," he said. "Nothing gets you in shape quite like a good scrap."
NOTES -- The Penguins pared their training-camp roster to 42 by sending forwards Luca Caputi, Joe Haddad, Dustin Jeffrey, Nick Johnson and Mark Letestu and defenseman Jonathan D'Aversa to their American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre, and defenseman Alex Grant (St. John's) and forwards Keven Veilleux (Rimouski) and Casey Pierro-Zabotel (Vancouver) to their junior teams. ... In addition to Godard, the Penguins' lineup tonight is scheduled to include forwards Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Pascal Dupuis, Jordan Staal, Janne Pesonen, Ryan Stone, Kris Beech, Jeff Taffe, Miroslav Satan, Petr Sykora and Bill Thomas, defensemen Sergei Gonchar, Ben Lovejoy, Alex Goligoski, Brooks Orpik, Mark Eaton and Darryl Sydor and goalies Marc-Andre Fleury and Dany Sabourin.
Dave Molinari can be reached at DWMolinari@Yahoo.com .