Every team needs a player that can eat pucks and hit people.
Andrew Peeke does just that for the Blue Jackets.
Before this season, Peeke appeared in just 33 NHL games. This season, he's played in all 81 and is scheduled to play in the 82nd and final game of the year Friday as Columbus travels to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins.
Taking a Beating
In those 81 games, Peeke has blocked 168 shots, which is a team-best and good enough for fourth-best in the NHL. He also ranks second on the team and 12th among NHL defensemen with 191 hits.
A prime example of his toughness was on display Tuesday night in Tampa when Peeke took a puck to the cheek. He briefly left for repairs, but played the rest of the game as if nothing happened.
Like any defensive-focused defenseman (and a man after John Tortorella's heart), Peeke said there's an art to blocking shots.
"Playing on the (penalty kill) and put in certain situations where I'm going to be battling that net-front...it's going to be inevitable that pucks are gonna hit me," Peeke said. "It's part of hockey. Every guy is gonna block shots and stuff. You just find a way to come back and battle with the guys."
Peeke being available for every game this season is a testament to his toughness, especially given his style of play.
He may not be the flashiest player on the ice, but every team needs players like him – considering the Blue Jackets have been challenged by Brad Larsen throughout the year to level up physically. Peeke is tied with Gavin Bayreuther for the team lead in fights.
According to hockeyfights.com, each of them has two this season, which when you consider the fact that Columbus ranks tied for last with seven total fights all season, two is a lot.
The Best Ability Is Availability
Peeke is the only blue-liner and just one of two players on the Blue Jackets to play in every game this season, with the other being forward Gustav Nyquist.
Not only has Peeke been available each and every game, but he's been able to log minutes as a right-side defenseman that can play alongside Zach Werenski. With the departure of Seth Jones this summer, it wasn't linear that Jones leaving meant Peeke taking some of his minutes, but Peeke has earned it.
Peeke ranks 67th among NHL defensemen in ice time per game, playing 21:25 a night. That number puts him third among Blue Jackets defensemen.
High Praise from Larsen
Larsen had great things to say about Peeke before the Blue Jackets' finale home game, a 5-2 win over the Lightning on Thursday at Nationwide Arena.
"(The dirty work) has got to be part of his DNA," Larsen said. "We talked right from camp what his game's supposed to look like."
He added that he expects "nothing different from Peeker."