- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 31, 2012

TAMPA, Fla. — Joel Rechlicz doesn’t need to be told what to do when he gets onto the ice. The nickname “Recker” and his fight card at just about every level of hockey speak for themselves.

New Washington Capitals teammate Mike Knuble put it best, saying with a nervous laugh, “It should be interesting to see what he does tonight.”

Rechlicz, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound mammoth of an enforcer, makes his Caps debut Tuesday night at the Tampa Bay Lightning and makes no secret of his job. He fights for a living, having never put up more than four points in a single season during his career.

“It’s just part of your job. You’re a professional so you know when the right time to do it is,” Rechlicz said. “You never want to put your team down with a bad penalty. You’ve got to be smart about your choices that you make on the ice. Just be smart.”

Rechlicz has 95 penalty minutes and 11 fights in 23 NHL games, all spent with the New York Islanders. He has averaged more penalty minutes a game (4:48) during his NHL stints than ice time (4:18).

Because of very limited playing time, the 24-year-old winger understands what he’s being asked to do. It’s not to be a skilled puck-handler.

“You’ve got to provide energy and be a positive presence on the bench when you’re not playing. Just be there at all times for the guys,” he said. “That’s my role. I just relish doing it.”

Dale Hunter said repeatedly Monday that Rechlicz adds toughness. The Caps do lack a true enforcer since sending D.J. King to the Hershey Bears in early November.

“He’s a big guy, and he’s a physical guy. He’s physical, and we’re on the road so we need a physical guy,” Hunter said after Tuesday’s morning skate. “When you go into another building, you need a physical presence and that’s what he has. We’ve got some guys that are big guys that play the body, but you always could use more and that’s why he’s here.”

The last time the Caps and Lightning played, Tampa Bay agitator Steve Downie dropped the gloves with Karl Alzner. The Caps seemed less than pleased.

“I’d be upset if one of our non-fighters got into a fight too. But to Alzy’s credit he stepped up and fought and did well,” Downie said. “No hard feelings, he’s a great guy and that’s it.”

Downie said he didn’t know if Rechlicz’s recall — which even required the Caps to sign him to an NHL deal Monday — was a message to him, and he didn’t want to talk about a possible fight because it might count as pre-meditation.

But Rechlicz is a deterrent if nothing else, even if he doesn’t fight Downie or Lightning call-up Pierre-Cedric Labrie. He’s OK with that and feels that teams need an element of intimidation.

“I think it’s a big part of the game. I think it will always be a big part of the game. Just having somebody on the bench or whatever keeps guys in check, keeps guys in line of maybe taking some liberties on some of the skilled guys out there,” Rechlicz said. “When a tough guy’s out of the lineup, guys play a little bigger on opposing teams. Usually when you’ve got a tough guy on your side, usually guys on the team feel a little more comfortable and play a little bigger as well.”

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