Berry laid back

KIRK PENTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:43 AM ET

MONTREAL -- It was hard to tell yesterday which team was coming off a win and which one was coming off a loss.

Montreal Alouettes head coach Jim Popp, who guided his team to its first victory of the season last week in Hamilton, looked like he'd rather be in a dentist's chair than at his pre-game press conference at Olympic Stadium.

Meanwhile, Winnipeg Blue Bombers head coach Doug Berry, whose team lost its first game of the season last week, was laughing, joking and poking fun at the media as they tried to grill Milt Stegall about the CFL touchdown record at the team hotel.

However, looking at the injured lists going into tonight's East Division battle between the Bombers (1-1-1) and the Alouettes (1-2) at Molson Stadium, it's easy to see why Popp might have been a wee bit prickly.

While the Bombers will be missing stud defensive end Gavin Walls because of a shoulder injury, the Als will be without strong-side linebacker Tim Strickland (hamstring) and wide receiver Kerry Watkins (ankle).

Berry wasn't reserved when asked about how much Montreal would miss Strickland, its defensive captain.

"Montreal is definitely going to miss Tim Strickland," said Berry, a former Alouettes assistant. "I've known Strick for many years, and I know what his contribution is to their defence; not only is it his physical contributions, but what he brings in terms of leadership and knowledge. They're losing a key guy when Tim's not on the field."

Berry didn't stop there.

"We may be facing somebody that's similar in physical abilities or maybe even better, but you just don't replace a Tim Strickland," he continued. "I know what that's like, losing, for instance, a Milt Stegall on offence or a Kevin Glenn on offence. Losing a Tim Strickland on defence is huge. I know it has to be."

Hmmm. Something suggests the Bombers might go after Strickland's replacement, T.J. Hill, who will be making his first CFL start tonight. Winnipeg, which beat Montreal 32-23 at Canad Inns Stadium 14 days ago for its lone victory so far, will do whatever it has to in order to get back on the winning track.

"We gotta get back in the mix of things," Stegall said. "Hopefully we can get a victory, and hopefully Toronto loses (to Calgary) so we'll be back up there (in first)."

"This isn't the end all. It's game four," Berry added. "But it would be nice to get our momentum turned again."

Winnipeg's Kevin Glenn, the CFL's leading passer, will have all of his weapons at his disposal with the return of wideout Derick Armstrong, who missed last week's loss because of a knee bruise.

All eyes, however, promise to still be on Stegall, who needs one touchdown to move past George Reed and Mike Pringle, and become the CFL's all-time leader with 138.

If he's enjoying the pursuit, as Pringle said he should, he's not talking about it.

"Don't ask me about the touchdown record," Stegall said as the media throng approached.

When the first question was about -- what else? -- the touchdown record, the anger in his voice was discernible even though he tried to joke about it.

"I know my English is not clear, but I know I just told you I'm not talking about the touchdown record," Stegall said. "Don't play me like I'm stupid."

At least one thing was clear yesterday: Stegall is ready to play some football.


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