Habs, Leafs styles to collide

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:50 AM ET

CALEDON -- Bob Gainey added hustle.

Brian Burke added muscle.

Tonight, the two philosophies will clash when Gainey's new-look Montreal Canadiens visit Burke's refurbished Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre to open the 2009-10 regular season.

In the minds of Gainey and coach Jacques Martin, Burke is like a salmon swimming upstream in the way he bulked up the Leafs roster. While other teams got swifter, the Leafs went against the flow and got meaner.

"It's a little out of character as to where the NHL is going," Gainey said. "But hockey is a tough sport. Hockey is a physical sport.

"(Still), our team isn't going to (play) any different. We're going to try to maximize our speed and strength and maximize our mental and physical toughness.

"We have six games with them. They will be important. They'll do what they need to win games and we'll do what we need to win games."

Martin, meanwhile, was quick to point out that the Stanley Cup finalists in 2009, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings, were teams that didn't actually need to engage in Pier 6 brawls in order to be successful.

Just know this: Brian Burke does not give a rat's rump about how the Habs braintrust feels about the ornery makeup of his squad. He was just sick and tired of watching his Leafs pushed around last season.

Besides, behind closed doors, Leafs management has not forgotten the physical liberties taken by the Habs on Toronto players last season.

Sucb as the hit from behind administered by the since-departed Tom Kostopoulos on Mike Van Ryn during a game Nov. 8, a shot that left the Leafs blue-liner with a broken hand, broken nose, bloodied face and a concussion.

Restrained

Or the way Sergei Kostitsyn seemed to have it in for fellow Belarusian Mikhail Grabovski, taking a run at the Leafs forward and earning a 10-minute misconduct. And when the teams next met two months later in Montreal, the two players had to be restrained from fighting.

Grabovski won't have to worry about Sergei Kostitsyn tonight. The Habs suspended him indefinitely yesterday when he refused to report to their Hamilton Bulldogs farm team. Kostitsyn, who was reassigned to the AHL club after arriving in camp out of shape, wants to be dealt, but Gainey said nothing is imminent.

"It's tough for me that (Sergei) left," said Kostitsyn's brother, Andrei, who will be in the Habs lineup tonight. "But I want to focus on my season. I am happy in Montreal."

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca


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