tampabay.com

New defenseman says he'll protect his family

For Shane O'Brien, hockey is a family affair.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published February 27, 2007


For Shane O'Brien, hockey is a family affair.

The Lightning defenseman said he learned that from his father, Pat, who played Canadian juniors, and uncle, Dennis, who spent most of his 10-year NHL career with the North Stars.

"They told me if they do something to your teammates, that's your family, so to speak," O'Brien said, "especially a skill guy. If they do something to a skill guy, you've got to get in there."

O'Brien's 12 fighting majors are tied for fifth in the league. His 140 penalty minutes are tied for second.

But O'Brien, acquired Saturday for minor-league goaltender Gerald Coleman and this season's first-round draft pick, said his game is not only about fighting.

"You have to be able to play and keep up out there," he said.

O'Brien, 23, has two goals, 14 points and was plus-5 in 62 games with Anaheim, and he finishes his checks. Why did the Ducks part with a 6-foot-2, 228-pound rookie who has upside and willing fists?

Anaheim coveted Coleman, who had fallen behind prospects Karri Ramo and Jonathan Boutin, and wanted a first-round pick to use in another deal.

The Ducks also are deep on defense - O'Brien's average 14:03 of ice time was seventh among defensemen. And with a league-high 56 fighting majors, they have plenty of toughness.

He likely starts out playing the same minutes for Tampa Bay. With a decent shot and a good first pass, time and situations could increase.

"He's going to bring some fight to us," coach John Tortorella said. "He's another kid who is hard to play against. That's what we're trying to get within our team a little more here."

"Every team should have a heavyweight," O'Brien said, "guys like myself who if something goes down, you get in there."