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Krug content with role as Walleye enforcer

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    Matt Krug said his old school mindset is a necessary dynamic in hockey. He leads the team in penalty minutes with 75 this season.

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Matt Krug said his old school mindset is a necessary dynamic in hockey. He leads the team in penalty minutes with 75 this season.

THE BLADE/JETTA FRASER
Enlarge | Buy This Image

Walleye defenseman Matt Krug sees himself as a policeman and a spark plug who approaches hockey with the mindset of a middle linebacker.

At 6-foot and 226 pounds, Krug is Toledo's tough guy and enforcer.

"I like to crush people with hits. It's exhilarating," Krug said. "I'm physical for sure. I don't mind fighting. I like to stand up for my teammates."

Krug, a native of Livonia, Mich., believes his old school mindset is a necessary dynamic It also leads to plenty of time to ponder his actions in the penalty box.

In three season as a pro, Krug has racked up 405 penalty minutes in 163 games. He leads the team in penalty minutes with 75 this season.

"A lot of people don't understand that it is our way of policing the game," Krug said.

ON THE HOOK

with Matt Krug

Position: Defenseman

Jersey Number: 7

Ht./Wt: 6-0, 226

Hometown: Livonia, Mich.

Born: July 7, 1987

Nickname: Krugger or Freddy. As in Freddy Krueger.

Favorite way to spend time away from the rink: Being active. Going for walks and runs. I like to play catch [baseball]. Before games I warm up by playing catch.

Hockey player you admired growing up: Scott Stevens. He was physical. I like to play the same way.

Favorite sport other than hockey: I love watching baseball. I love the Detroit Tigers.

Favorite food: Chicken Parmesan

Favorite beverage: Diet Mountain Dew

Best fast food: I absolutely hate fast food. But if I had to pick it would be Jimmy John's or Potbelly Sandwich Shop.

Have you ever eaten Walleye? Never have. I've had salmon, cod, and other stuff. I'd like to.

Favorite Movie: I have a big DVD collection. I'm like the rental guy for the other guys. Right now I like Role Models.

Person you most admire: Mother, Cheryl

If you could meet any person who would it be? Justin Timberlake

Top sports moment: I scored a hat trick when I was a senior at Robert Morris against Ferris State. All three Krug brothers have had hat tricks in the CCHA. Adam [Wayne State] had one against Bowling Green, and Torey [junior at Michigan State] had one against Michigan.

What's your hockey superstition? I stay out of everyone's way. I let them do their thing and go with the flow.

What would you be doing if you weren't playing hockey? Our family owns a hockey school. It's called Next Level Player Development. It's a skilled base camp. We have locations all over, including Monroe, Muskegon, and Chicago.

Something nobody knows about you: As tough as I am, I am a sensitive guy. I wear my heart on my sleeve.

-- Mark Monroe

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"We are not a bunch of goons. I will go out there and protect my teammates. I will not let you take advantage of my guys. If you charge the net and hit our goalie, I will let you know you won't be doing it again."

The tough-as-nails attitude dates back to Krug's days as a middle linebacker at Livonia Churchill High School. He earned first team all-district honors as a senior.

"I was always a bigger guy and football helped with all the weight lifting," Krug said.

Krug also was an all-district baseball player as a catcher.

"Who knows what would have happened if I would have been more serious about football or baseball," Krug said. "But the love of hockey has always been there."

Matt's father Kyle Krug has coached youth hockey for years. Kyle Krug coached all four of his sons when they played mite hockey. Adam and Matt have gone on to pro careers in minor hockey while Torey Krug is a junior defenseman at Michigan State. Adam Krug suited up in three games for Toledo this season.

"Hockey has always been huge in my family. My dad and uncles played. My dad has coached since he was 20," Matt said.

Krug said he started out as a forward before his dad asked him one day to try defense at age 7. "And it kind of stuck," Krug said.

He also enjoyed sticking people from an early age, and loved being known as a big checker.

"I'm always lurking," he said. "It's more or less about timing. I get satisfaction out of it."

Krug said Walleye coach Nick Vitucci signed him to be a spark plug.

"I want to be known as the guy who can get the crowd going with a big hit or a fight," Krug said.

The 24-year-old said he gets fired up when the crowd at the Huntington Center screams "Hit Somebody!" in unison at the end of the National Anthem.

"When I first heard it, it felt like home for me because I love to hit somebody," Krug said. "It gets you going. It sends chills up your back."

Yet Krug is quick to point out that he prefers to be known as "an all-around defenseman" who likes to shoot the puck and protect his zone.

"Whatever role I'm needed in I will accept it," Krug said. "I can play a defensive style or I'll jump up in the play."

Krug has 10 assists in 24 games but has yet to score a goal in a Walleye sweater.

"I get razzed about it by my family every day," Krug said. "My dad asked me if I forgot how to score. A lot of guys go through it. I have 45 shots so it's not like I'm not getting my chances. I just need to get a bounce."

Yet, Krug realizes his role isn't to be a point producer, but a gritty agitator.

"Everything else is an added bonus," he said.

Krug played at Wayne State University before the program folded, then played at Robert Morris University. He also has spent time in the CHL and IHL where he also piled up the penalty minutes.

Krug said fights can start "in all kinds of different ways."

"It can be set up from the game before or if someone does something dirty during a game, I'll get their number, and get them the next shift," he said. "If I'm not playing well what better way to get going than to knock some heads? But mostly it's protecting my guys."

Krug's role as a protector grew after Vitucci traded away two players, Kevin Harvey and Scott Fletcher, that were expected to provide most of the team's physicality.

Harvey, a tough enforcer who had 194 penalty minutes in 37 games in the CHL last season, was sent to Elmira. Fletcher, who led the Walleye in penalty minutes with 179 last season, was traded to Florida.

"I planned to play this way no matter if we had some fighters on this team or not," Krug said. "I'll stick to my roots."

The Walleye were recently shaken out of a six-game losing streak. Toledo went 2-0-2 last week, earning six out of eight available points. Toledo (15-18-2) remains in last in the ECHL North Division but is just two points out of third.

"The guys really have come together in the last few games," Krug said. "We have a sense of team again after a month of guys coming in and out of the lineup [in transactions with AHL teams].

"We all know we are at the halfway point, and we are confident we can play with anybody. There is a ton of hockey to be played. There's no reason why we can't make a playoff run."

Contact Mark Monroe at: mmonroe@theblade.com, 419-724-6354, or on Twitter @MonroeBlade

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