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Toughness questions answered by Godard

Call it the one fight right wing Eric Godard doesn't anticipate.

"I know my role for this team," Godard said Saturday, prior to the Penguins' 3-2 shootout loss against the Rangers at New York. "It's not like I have to fight an urge to do a lot different than what I've been doing."

Godard has spent the opening weeks of this season helping do what some skeptics believed impossible. He -- with a couple of assists from left wing Paul Bissonnette -- has kept opponents honest by dropping the gloves at the first indication of danger for the Penguins' numerous skilled stars.

That was the idea general manger Ray Shero had in mind upon signing Godard to a three-year deal over the summer. The move made expendable the club's previous enforcer, right wing Georges Laraque, whose salary demands the Penguins could not afford.

Laraque, who has appeared in only three games, will earn $1.5 million this season and each of the next two in Montreal. Godard, three years his predecessor's junior at 28, is making $750,000 annually over that same span for the Penguins.

He already is earning his pay with four major penalties for fighting through nine games.

"I knew he was a good player for his role," coach Michel Therrien said. "I'm starting to trust his game. ... It's not one shift. It's game after game. I want to see how he's going to reach, and right now, he's passing the test."

Shero expected nothing less of Godard.

"He's been like this since he's turned pro," Shero said. "He knows why we signed him, and he knows what's keeping him in the league.

"At the same time, he's always trying to improve himself as a player. He's getting decent ice time because he's earned it."

Godard does not shy from his enforcer tag, but he signed with the Penguins because of Therrien's history of rewarding role players with added responsibilities.

"I've got a chance to play with some different lines ... but I have to do my job to get that chance," Godard said.

Bissonnette, a rookie who has amassed two fighting majors in five games, said neither he nor Godard hold grand illusions of finding their way onto a line with either of the Penguins' two superstar centers, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

Basically, don't expect either player to pull a page from Laraque, who made known on a few occasions last season his desire for recognition as more than one of the sport's premier protectors.

"I wouldn't even dream about that," Bissonnette said. "First of all, I can't, so I wouldn't even try.

"The only way we're going to win is if (the stars) are in the lineup. Eric, and me when I'm in the lineup, just have to let guys know that it's not OK to run our top guys."

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