Hossa, Thornton ready to play before former fans

MIKE ZEISBERGER, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 8:24 AM ET

MONTREAL -- You are Marian Hossa.

You turned down a reported seven-year, $52-million US offer to remain a Pittsburgh Penguin last summer in order to jump ship and join the Detriot Red Wings -- the same Detroit Red Wings that defeated you in the Stanley Cup final.

You opted to settle for a one-year, $7.45-million deal to play in Hockeytown because you felt the Wings gave you the best opportunity of winning, despite the fact that you left a team that sported superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

Tomorrow, you will step on the ice at the Mellon Arena for the first time since you snubbed the Pens. And you will be wearing the red-and-white jersey of the Red Wings, who carried the Stanley Cup on this same surface eight months ago in front of the loyal Pittsburgh fans who supported you through thick and thin.

Let's be honest. You will be perceived as a traitor and will be treated as such.

Are you ready to be showered with boos? You had better be.

"It will be loud," Hossa acknowledged yesterday. "And when I touch the puck, it will be louder. That's what I'm expecting. I try not to think about it -- just focus on my game and do my stuff.

"I had a great time in Pittsburgh. There are great fans in Pittsburgh, a sellout every night."

A great time, perhaps. But not great enough to stay.

And now, the Hossa-less Penguins find themselves in a struggle just to sneak into the post-season, starting play yesterday three points out of a playoff berth.

Your Red Wings, meanwhile, are where they usually are: Among the top three teams in the NHL standings.

"(The Penguins) have a lot of new players and when you add new players to a team it can take some time," Hossa said. "I've seen games where they play real good. They have two of the top players in the game and they have great offensive potential.

"It's a dangerous team."

One that, like its fans, is still trying to figure out why you bolted out of town.

BACK IN BEANTOWN

Hossa will not be the only stud player returning to the scene where he once flourished in the coming days.

On Tuesday, Joe Thornton will play in Boston for just the second time since he was shipped out by the Bruins as part of the shocking 2005 deal that sent him to San Jose for Marco Sturm, Wayne Primeau and Brad Stuart.

He hopes it lasts longer than his first visit to the TD Banknorth Garden as a member of the Sharks.

On that occasion about three years ago, Jumbo Joe was tossed just 5:13 into the game by referee Chris Rooney, who gave the skilled centre the heave-ho for drilling Hal Gill into the boards. Even Gill said the call was questionable.

Thornton said he and Rooney have subsequently discussed the issue.

"We kind of laugh about it here and there," Thornton said. "It's one of those things where you don't blame anybody. It's just one of those calls. It was kind of iffy, but it was unfortunate I could not finish the game.

"I seem to remember we won the game pretty handily while I was eating popcorn in the dressing room."

Of more interest, perhaps, is the fact that the game will match up the two top teams in the NHL.

Asked if this might be a preview of the Stanley Cup final, Thornton replied: "Yeah, I've wondered about that a little bit."

TRADE WINDS

Word out of Atlanta is that defencemen Mathieu Schneider and Niclas Havelid will be the most attractive Thrashers for sale at the trade deadline. Forward Colby Armstrong, who has been mentioned in recent trade speculation, is not a certainty to be moved, however ... New York Rangers scout Rick Kehoe has been following the Calgary Flames across the continent. Flames GM Darryl Sutter is said to have liked Rangers forward Nigel Dawes in the past ... The Flames have finished their season series with Nashville, but Predators scout Ray Knickle continues to monitor the team. The Flames might be willing to part with forward Matthew Lombardi for a defenceman such as Dan Hamhuis ... Despite denials from Anaheim GM Bob Murray about a Sun Media report that Chris Pronger could become a Maple Leaf by the March 4 trade deadline, reports out of Orange County suggest the all-star defenceman might still be moved ... There is a lot of talk in Edmonton that underachieving winger Erik Cole, a pending unrestricted free agent, could be moved. The Oilers need him for their playoff run but that hasn't stopped Dave Semenko, their pro scout, from following the Bruins recently. Boston has cap space, since Sturm and his $3.5 million US salary are on long-term injury.

TAMPA BAY BLUES

Tampa Bay Lightning GM Brian Lawton was gutted that his team did not rebound well after captain Vinny Lecavalier went after New York Islander Tim Jackman, who had just knocked down Tampa goalie Karri Ramo. "I was extremely disappointed with our players," Lawton said. "Vinny did the most noble thing you could do in his position outside of scoring, which is stand up for the team, and the team didn't respond for him. That was hurtful, disappointing and upsetting ... Personally, it really hurt me. It hurt our fans. It hurt our coaches. It wasn't a good thing."


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