Tom Sestito does not score goals, but he brings everything a hockey team needs from its fourth line.
The 6' 5", 230-pounder was called up to the NHL on January 22nd following Danny Briere's concussion. The 24-year-old has dressed in every game since, averaging more than eight minutes of ice time per game.
Sestito is a quality skater for his size, can forecheck efficiently, and hits very hard. His physical play and abrasive personality on the ice combine for a very unpleasant experience for opposing players.
Opponents have less room to make plays with Sestito on the ice; they know he is constantly going to be going at them. They also know he isn't afraid to go outside the lines of NHL rules to get his message through.
"I'll take another suspension on you" is what he said to New York Rangers' forward Brad Richards in a clip televised in HBO's 24/7 series.
This is after hitting another New York player, Andre Deveaux, in a preseason game. Sestito drove Deveaux into the boards from behind, earning a suspension that lasted through two regular season games.
Sestito had his first crack with the Flyers in December, recording 15 penalty minutes in three games while recording no points.
In the latest showdown against divisional rival New York, Sestito fought three times: the first against Brandon Dubinsky, the second against Stu Bickel, and, after being challeneged in the third, with Brandon Prust.
Dubinsky initiated the first fight, but did little besides grab onto Sestito once it got going. He appeared to be afraid of getting hit.
The second fight started when Bickel made contact with Max Talbot after a whistle. Bickel swatted at Talbot's head as the Flyers' forward was going towards the New York goal.
Sestito was quick to defend his teammate, skating to Bickel and jostling him before both dropped their gloves. The players exchanged several hits before Sestito was pulled down to the ice. Bickel was cut after the fight.
In the third period, Prust shoved Sestito before a faceoff. The two squared-off and it was Sestito getting the edge; he landed a left hook that cut Prust.
Once that happened, Prust did nothing more than hold on to Sestito with both hands instead of attempting to continue throwing punches.
Sestito now has five fights in six games, with one assist.
The fourth line is not meant to be a productive scoring machine in hockey; Flyers coach Peter Laviolette uses it as a physical force, and Sestito is a perfect fit there. He brings the intensity and emotion necessary in hockey games.
Sestito's efforts are not going unnoticed.
Former Flyers enforcer Todd Fedoruk said, "Sestito wants to stay!!!! 3 well fought fights by him."
David Singer of HockeyFights.com said, "Getting rid of Sestito for entire 3rd pd was good idea by Prust. That had to be motivation behind the fight. Easier skating for Rangers now."
NHL.com contributor Bill Meltzer added, "I think Sestito has done his job for most part."
When Danny Briere and James van Riemsdyk get healthy, the Flyers are going to have to make a decision on who is scratched. Sestito has made a strong case that it should be someone else.
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