Originally written on Fox Sports Midwest  |  Last updated 10/23/14
ST. LOUIS Ryan Reaves clenched his fists and skated backward toward the middle of the ice. Here, at center stage, he would give them what they are always asking for, what they say he avoids too often. The opponent was Paul Bissonnette. A shove from the Phoenix Coyote left wing had turned into trash talk, which turned into discarded hockey sticks, thrown gloves and pushed-up jersey sleeves. Frenzied fans at the Scottrade Center stood and screamed, thrilled for a chance to watch Reaves fight. "They're throwing them," a TV announcer said as the two squared off. "Reaves is tough," his partner added. "He throws bombs!" When he decides to throw them, that is. Search for his name on Twitter, and you'll see the things people say about Reaves. They say he should drop his gloves more often. Then, when he does fight, they mention all the times he didn't. "I know fans always like to see that kind of stuff," Reaves said. "I'm sure sometimes they're frustrated. But I have a job to do. They're the fans. I'm the player." The 6-foot-1, 224-pound right wing is now in his third NHL season. He's the St. Louis enforcer, a player tasked with protecting his teammates when there is perceived wrongdoing on the ice. But that doesn't mean he goes out of his way to start trouble. As much as it frustrates fight-crazed fans, Reaves with the approval and encouragement of Blues coach Ken Hitchcock has been avoiding unnecessary fights as he tries to become a more-complete player. "Sometimes its not the time," Reaves said of passing up certain opportunities to brawl. "Sometimes, the coaching staff doesnt think its the time. Ill always be there to stick up for the guys if need be. But, Ive tried to get away from those kind of staged, fight-for-no-reason kind of things. According to hockeyfights.com, Reaves' seven fights during this shortened season place him in a 10-way tie for 15th-most in the NHL. Tampa Bay Lightning right wing B.J. Crombeen, the league leader, has fought twice as often. Reaves has fought less this season than last. In 2011-12, his 13 fights tied for 11th-most in NHL regular season. The year before that his first in the NHL he fought eight times in 28 games. As Reaves' number of fights have declined, areas of his game have improved. This season, his average time on ice has increased by almost a minute, his shooting percentage has jumped from 9.4 to 16.7 and he has scored a career-high four goals. Still, some fans would trade that progress for more fisticuffs. And that irks Hitchcock. "He Reaves doesnt do the things that some people want him to do, which I quite frankly think is a waste of time, unless its a retaliation to something gone bad, or kind of regulating whats going on on the ice," Hitchcock said. "He does that fine. But the other stuff, the sideshow part, I dont want him to participate in that." "By being able to focus on being a hockey player, and playing the game the right way, he has a way bigger impact on the outcome," the coach added. "That's what we want him to do. He's not a fourth-line player. He's a third-line player that started his career on the fourth line." The night Phoenix was in town, it took Reaves 10 seconds to turn Bissonnette, the recipient of five rights to the face and one well-timed hip toss, into a crumpled pile on the ice. Reaves flexed and celebrated before entering the penalty box. Bissonnette got to his feet and shook his head. The electricity lingered. "Who is your favorite player?" a woman on the Scottrade Center JumboTron asked a youth hockey player later that evening. "Reaves," the boy said to the crowd of 17,205. "Why?" she asked. "Because he gets into a lot of fights!" he said. Right or wrong, plenty would like to see some more. You can follow Ben Frederickson on Twitter (@Ben_Fred) and contact him at frederickson.ben@gmail.com
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Robert Klemko given four-week suspension from The MMQB

Michael Vick: Percy Harvin won't be a monster here

Robert Griffin III 'guaranteed' to be back in Week 11

Urlacher: Cutler paid like elite QB, hasn’t produced like one

Hoyer doesn’t think about getting benched for Manziel

Cardinals kicker blew $1,500 signing bonus on headphones

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Ainge: Draft lottery reform would be 'better for the game'

Royals take Game 2 to even series with Giants

Report: Roger Goodell will have to testify in Ray Rice case

Blake Griffin accused of slapping man in Las Vegas club

Ronda Rousey to face Cat Zingano at UFC 182

Report: Zach Mettenberger to start for Titans over Locker

Jimmy Howard unveils pink mask for 'Hockey Fights Cancer'

Louisville Athletic Dept. asking for donations at gas pump

Falcons make huge mistake with London infographic

DeMarco Murry surprises Cowboys linemen with iMacs

Jimbo Fisher's son reps for Winston on 'Superhero Day'

WATCH: Steve Ballmer freaks out while shown on Jumbotron

AUDIO: Rex Ryan pranks Sammy Watkins on conference call

Top storyline for each Week 8 NFL game

WATCH: Giants pitcher yells at Salvador Perez after HR

Will Muschamp's head coaching job posted on Craigslist

Miss California USA would like to date Eric Hosmer

WATCH: Eric Bledsoe sends Clipper flying with sick move

NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Brian Urlacher rips Jay Cutler

Top NFL storylines: Week 8

Kiffin's mom worried for son's safety

Report: Goodell will have to testify

Penguins do 'O Canada' following tragedy

UEFA Champions League midway report: Groups A – D

Porn star: No one parties like Janikowski

Report: Expect Florida to make a run at Bob Stoops

The San Francisco Giants are zombies

10 bold predictions for NFL Week 8

Pitcher's wife leaves generous tip

Nicklaus defends Jameis Winston

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.