'I can't think about it too much'

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

ATLANTA -- Dany Heatley is trying to treat this as just another game.

Unfortunately for him, nobody else is.

The Senators winger will be back where his NHL career started today at Philips Arena to face the Atlanta Thrashers for the first time since being dealt to Ottawa last summer.

"I know the media is going to try and make a big deal out of this. They can go right ahead. I'm not going to get involved in it," said Heatley. ''I'm just trying to treat this as just another game.

''I want to go out there and play and hope the team has success.''

Heatley, 24, selected No. 2 overall by the Thrashers in the 2000 NHL entry draft, made the difficult decision last summer to ask Atlanta GM Don Waddell for a trade.

The tragic car accident that took the life of Thrashers teammate and close friend Dan Snyder in September, 2003 forever changed Heatley's life. Heatley, the driver involved in the accident, started thinking about asking for a move during the NHL lockout. There were too many reminders of the tragedy in Atlanta.

The best-case scenario was to get a fresh start elsewhere and the Senators were the perfect fit as they were having problems signing Marian Hossa, another talented winger.

"Anyone who has ever gone through anything like that, or lost a friend or a family member, they know that it's never going to leave you," Heatley said. "But at the same time it gets better, and as time goes on it gets better."

What kind of impact did the deal have in Atlanta? The day after the trade, Waddell took out a full-page ad in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to explain to fans why the Thrashers decided to trade one of their top players for another young star.

FAIR EXCHANGE

The Thrashers were fortunate a player of Hossa's ability was available; this could be the perfect deal for both sides.

Still, it's will be good for both players to get today's game over with and move on with their lives.

"I'm sure that, knowing Dany, he is just trying to look at this like any other game," said Stacey McAlpine, Heatley's Calgary-based agent. "Obviously, this is going to be different for him. There are a lot of guys on that Atlanta team he played with, and he'll look around the stands and there is going to be familiar faces.

"I'm sure there are a lot of fans in Atlanta who are looking forward to seeing him on the ice and he'll be doing the best he can to help Ottawa win. This has been a good move for him. If you asked Dany Heatley if there is anything he could do differently since being dealt to Ottawa, I'm sure he'd tell you that there's nothing he would do differently.

''This has been the perfect situation for him and it has been a lot of fun."

MATINEE SHOW

Heatley might be fortunate the game, which will be shown across Canada on TSN, has been moved to a 3 p.m. start to facilitate the Sugar Bowl because it eliminates the morning skate and cuts down on the amount of media. The Senators aren't concerned about Heatley being under the spotlight.

"He'll handle it in the proper manner," said GM John Muckler. "He's a classy individual and I'm sure he's going to be nervous for a lot of different reasons, but he'll handle it with class."

Heatley does concede it is going to be different to skate out of the visitors side into an arena he was once happy to call home.

"I can't think about it too much," said Heatley, who has 54 points -- including 25 goals -- in 36 games this season. "It's going to be a little strange to see some of the guys I used to play with. I'm going to go in there, deal with it and try to win the game. That's about all I can do."

bruce.garrioch@ott.sunpub.com


Videos

Photos