Nikolai Knyzhov had his first "welcome to the NHL" moment Monday night in the Sharks' 6-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild. Knyzhov took his lumps fighting veteran Marcus Foligno but earned respect from both sides.
"It's huge," Sharks defenseman Brent Burns said when asked about Knyzhov being willing to fight. "I said it before -- he's got great skills, he's really big, really strong and obviously he's got the courage to stand in there and show that he wants to be a player every night. It's great to see.
"You want to capitalize on that courage and stepping up for us and I don't think we did it."
Knyzhov, just 22 years old, certainly came on the losing end of the fight, though that's not what matters to Burns and the rest of his Sharks teammates. Foligno is a 10-year NHL veteran and has been in plenty of fights throughout his career.
Even Foligno has more respect for the rookie after trading exchanges on the SAP Center ice.
The Sharks are back on the ice Thursday when they face off with their biggest rivals, the Vegas Golden Knights. They'll need that same fight that Knyzhov displayed, and Burns knows they still need to reward his efforts.