Mouth from the south ...

Dion Phaneuf isn't worrying about what Sean Avery will say about the Flames before game time. (Sun...

Dion Phaneuf isn't worrying about what Sean Avery will say about the Flames before game time. (Sun Media/Darren Makowichuk)

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 3:29 PM ET

Dion Phaneuf is well aware Sean Avery will be coming after him tonight.

At least with his words.

Avery, one of the NHL's premier -- to put it politely -- disturbers, doesn't usually need a specific reason to verbally spar with opposing players.

Phaneuf, however, is a big target for Avery when he and the Dallas Stars take to the ice to face the Calgary Flames at the Saddledome.

Phaneuf's is in a relationship with actress Elisha Cuthbert, who previously dated Avery.

For his part, Phaneuf yesterday said he isn't worrying about what Avery will say.

"We've played against him a lot. We know the way he plays," Phaneuf said. "That's the style of player he is. You know he's going to be an emotional guy and talking to you.

"With saying that, our focus is on winning a hockey game against the Dallas Stars."

The Stars come to Calgary with a boatload of storylines. Their season has started horribly -- sitting last in the WHL's Western Conference -- while captain Mike Modano is having a strong campaign and star goaltender Marty Turco is struggling.

Yet, Avery -- he with three goals and 10 points -- will be the headliner for a couple of reasons.

It'll be interesting to see how Avery and Phaneuf interact. Phaneuf is known for his ability to irritate opponents with actions and words, although he's admitted he's not in Avery's category when it comes to the verbal aspect.

"Oh, I'd definitely have to say he would win that," Phaneuf said.

Another Flames star who has been targeted by Avery in the past is captain Jarome Iginla.

On the eve of the season, Avery told ESPN in an interview the league is wrong in marketing just stars.

"Nobody cares about Jarome Iginla and guys like that. They're just not exciting enough. They don't bring enough to the game," Avery said.

Tonight's game is Iginla's first chance to reply, but he didn't have the date circled on the calendar.

"No, it hasn't kept me up," Iginla said with a grin. "He says a lot of things. It's not the first time he's said something about me, maybe publicly, but he's always talking on the ice.

"He says lots off the ice, and that's fine. That's his way.

"From our point of view, it's not about getting even. It's about playing, getting better and winning. We haven't talked about it since that day. I don't think it's an issue."

Michael Cammalleri was Avery's teammate for the better part of three seasons in L.A., so he's more than capable of knowing what the Stars forward can do.

"I think he'll have good material," Cammalleri said. "As far as his verbal ammunition, it'll be interesting. If you see me laughing out there ... It's sometimes entertaining."

No matter what antics Avery comes up with, though, the Flames must be aware of the importance of tonight's affair.

After facing the Stars, the Flames leave on a four-game road trip, so they want to go with a positive vibe by improving a roll that's seen them win five of the last six games.

"They're trying to get themselves going," Iginla said of the Stars. "There's still two-thirds of the season left. "I don't think (the Stars' struggles were) expected, but they've battled a lot of injuries and lost very good players. We know they have hungry guys trying to make their way."

During his years in L.A., Cammalleri has seen enough strong Stars teams to believe this year's edition won't fall completely off the map.

"They're a team you have to be aware of because they have so many good players. It almost feels like it's a matter of time before they get it going."


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