New York Islanders defenseman Brendan Witt has made a career of being tough, hard-hitting and a real pain to play against.
His ability to annoy is not limited to rookies or marginal players. Just last week, he rankled Brendan Shanahan -- creating a key penalty that led to a goal in the Islanders' 4-3 victory over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.
Witt took one for the team, a punch after the whistle that was a glancing blow by the left eye -- the one already black, blue and yellow.
"You always try to get underneath a guy's skin," said Witt, in his first season with the Islanders after nine-plus with Washington. "It's more of a mental game than anything. You try to keep your composure and take a couple of punches. We capitalized on the power play, which was good for us.
"I think he just grazed me off the top of my head. No biggie."
Shanahan acknowledged he was baited into delivering the shot seen by officials.
"I'd like to take that back," he said. "He did a good job of drawing me in, and I thought he and I were going to get into it. He threw his head back like I was Joe Louis."