Will fans hit boos hard?

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:58 PM ET

Are Ottawa fans ready to finally forgive and forget?

The Corel Centre will be jammed for tonight's visit by Alexei Yashin and the Islanders and, if the norm continues, the former Senators centre will be booed every time he touches the puck.

However, Mark Gandler, Yashin's controversial agent, told the Sun people in Ottawa should be filling the building to cheer on the home side and not jeer the former Senators captain.

"I don't know why fans would bother to go to the rink to boo Alexei Yashin," said Gandler. "The people need to get over it. They've got to forget what's happened in the past and enjoy going there to see good hockey. Alexei enjoyed his time in Ottawa.

"I know a lot of people have been good to him there. When he walks down the street, people smile and shake his hand and say, 'Hello, Alexei.' They don't walk up to him and boo him. I don't know why they would do it in the stands."

The Islanders, who named Yashin their captain before the start of the season, have struggled with consistency and are coming off a 5-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins -- a game which saw fans asking for the coach's head with chants of "Fire Steve Stirling."

"Tell them to get in line," said Stirling about the taunting by the Nassau Veterans' Memorial Coliseum crowd.

But with GM Mike Milbury's track record of firing coaches, it may not be so farfetched to believe Stirling may be on his way out if the team's troubles continue.

Milbury doctored his lineup with several off-season changes that haven't worked out -- at least not yet.

They signed free-agents Alexei Zhitnik and Miroslav Satan after losing blueliners Adrian Aucoin and Roman Hamrlik to free agency, sent former captain Mike Peca to Edmonton for Mike York and also acquired blueliner Brent Sopel from Vancouver.

With Peca's departure, the Islanders felt Yashin was a natural choice for the captaincy and the team's struggles are sure to test his ability to lead the troops.

"He has relished the opportunity to be a captain and he considers this a big challenge," said Gandler. "It's not easy to be the captain of any team and he has worked hard to try to bring this team together.

"Right now, they are struggling with consistency, but Alexei knows that part of his job is to help make the atmosphere in the room better.

"Naturally, he wants the team to do better and he's trying to do as much as he can to help this team win."

bruce.garrioch@ott.sunpub.com


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