Battochio in survival mode

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

LONDON, Ont. -- If he can get through the warmup tonight without being killed by his own teammates, Ottawa goalie Dan Battochio may well be a decisive factor in the Memorial Cup, sudden-death semi-final against the Rimouski Oceanic.

Throughout this tournament, and really throughout the playoffs, Battochio has been the main reason why Ottawa overachieved to get to this point.

He has handled opposition shooters just fine, thank you. It's his own teammates who have been putting him in danger.

On Wednesday in practice, injured forward Jakub Petruzalek ripped a shot off Battochio's collarbone, sending sending a chill down the spines of everyone in the organization. Yesterday morning, it was another teammate, Jamie VanderVeeken, who drilled the little goalie in the throat with a high shot and was banished from the ice surface by coach Brian Kilrea.

Kilrea, already in a foul mood after what he felt was a lacklustre team effort in a 5-2 loss to London on Thursday evening, had steam coming out his ears after the practice.

Battochio was sent to see the team doctor but the throat injury is not believed serious enough to keep him out of tonight's semi-final.

"Let's put it this way," said Kilrea. "If he doesn't play, then I'll just stay back with him."

Kilrea didn't mince words with his team on the ice yesterday, berating them for their inability or unwillingness to finish their checks.

"They're playing like 5-foot-5. We've got some forwards that are six (feet), 6-1, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 and they're not hitting, they're not punishing," he said.

Whether they win or not tonight, you can expect a very physical presence from the 67's. Either that or a few of them probably will be looking for a new team to play for next season.

When Ottawa played Rimouski Tuesday, Crosby had a big target pasted on his shirt and you can expect more of the same tonight. Either that or Crosby will bury them with his skill. But Kilrea disputes that Crosby is the only player singled out.

"If you followed (Ottawa forward) Julian Talbot around with a camera, you'd probably see the same abuse that he's taking. Everybody's trying to protect Sidney Crosby and Corey Perry but (Thursday) Julian Talbot had his helmet knocked off three times. No penalty.

"We have some guys that are taking abuse, too. Unfortunately, they're just not as big a name as (Crosby)."

Battochio isn't the only goaltender in this game tonight, though. Rimouski's Cedrick Desjardins, an undrafted 19-year-old, has been every bit as good this week. He stopped 48 of 51 shots against the 67's in a 4-3 victory on Tuesday.

Desjardins is coming off a couple of days of rest, a luxury he hopes will help him today and, he hopes, tomorrow.

"It was good to get some time away, just to rest. I slept until noon (Thursday) and just recharged my batteries."

With the focus on Sidney Crosby this week, it's hard for anyone else in an Oceanic sweater to get noticed.

"He's a forgotten man, but not by us," Kilrea said.

"He has earned the respect of everybody in this tournament. He is a battler."

Desjardins is, however, a poster-boy for all those hockey critics who believe that the size of goalie equipment has gotten way out of hand.

Desjardins is a slight six-footer but looks about the size of Shaquille O'Neal with his pads on. When he stands in his crease, he makes that 4-by-6 opening look almost as tiny as Belinda Stronach's heart.

"I imagine if you saw (Desjardins) stripped down, you wouldn't mistake him for a linebacker," said Kilrea. "But he doesn't just stand there. He moves his feet really well."

If Battochio moves his feet quickly enough, he'll survive tonight, too. Not necessarily the game, but it might get him through the warmup.


Videos

Photos