ATLANTA -- Dany Heatley wasn't exactly welcomed back with open arms.
The Senators winger -- making his return to Philips Arena for the first time since being dealt to Ottawa last summer for winger Marian Hossa -- was booed every time he touched the puck against the Thrashers yesterday afternoon.
While everybody was hopeful people would be able to forgive and forget the trade request Heatley made -- he wanted to escape the memory of a car crash that killed teammate Dan Snyder on Sept. 29, 2003 -- the Atlanta fans made it clear they're still not happy about it.
"They can do what they want," said Heatley. "If they want to boo me, that's fine. At least they were making noise.
"A lot of people said nice things to me and welcomed me back."
There weren't any hard feelings about it all in the Thrashers dressing room. Recalling the 7 a.m. skates he had with Heatley as he rehabilitated following the car accident, Atlanta coach Bob Hartley couldn't have shown more class before the game.
"Like I said before, there's not a game he plays that I don't look at the box score to see what he does because, obviously, he was a big part of this organization," said Hartley. "We all understand what happened because we went through this with him.
"It was a life decision. I'm very respectful of that. He's a quality young man, and now he has a chance to get away from those thoughts and everything."
Around The Boards:
The last time Senators gave up eight goals? Nov. 7, 1998, in an 8-5 loss to Washington ... Hartley doesn't mix words when it comes to talking about Hossa and the contribution he has made to the Thrashers. "He reminds me a lot of Joe Sakic in Colorado," said Hartley, who won the Cup with the Avs. "He helped me win a lot of games, but I don't remember many where we lost because of him. (Hossa) is like Sakic because he always finds a way to help the team win." Added Hartley: "He has been unbelievable. He's a great two-way player."... Senators F Bryan Smolinski had a quick chat with former Steelers receiver Lynn Swann as he was leaving the hotel yesterday. Swann was in town to work on the Sugar Bowl broadcast for ABC.
The Neutral Zone:
The Thrashers didn't have C Bobby Holik in the lineup. They wouldn't reveal what his injury was, but he took a shot off the foot from teammate Marc Savard against the Capitals on Sunday and was limping badly after the game ... Senators D Zdeno Chara spoke to Hossa on Sunday and had a little warning for him. '(Chara) told me, 'Don't be flying down the wing,' " said Hossa. "I told him, 'If you leave me alone, I'll leave you alone.' We were just kidding." Chara and Hossa had a chance meeting in the Ottawa end during a Senators power play. Chara didn't hesitate to slam his old neighbor from Trencin, Slovakia, into the boards ... Here's a unique concept, Ottawa fans: The people here actually threw hats on the ice after Slava Kozlov completed a hat trick at 16:05 of the second period.
Off The Glass
The fans were chanting "Hossa, Hossa" during the game. "That was nice. I didn't expect that. It made feel at home," said Hossa. As for the booing that Heatley received, Hossa added: "I hope that doesn't happen to me when we play in Ottawa."... Some of the NBA's Toronto Raptors took in part of the game. They were practising at a basketball court in the Philips Arena complex in preparation for tonight's game against the Hawks and had a chance to sneak a peek ... Returned to Binghamton on the weekend, a frustrated Denis Hamel told the local newspaper he'd like a trade. "You know what? I've got the talent to play up there," Hamel told the Press and Sun Bulletin on the weekend. "So if a trade happened, I'd be happy." Hamel said he won't play another season in the AHL and will go to Germany next year if he doesn't get a chance in the NHL.
SOME THINGS WORTH NOTING...
BIGGER WORRIES: Asked if injured G Dominik Hasek would be ready to play tomorrow vs. Washington, coach Bryan Murray said: "I'm more worried about the 18 other guys, not him."
THE MATCHUP: Marian Hossa played 23:04 and was plus-4 with two goals and an assist, while Dany Heatley played 19:41 and was minus-2 with a goal.
QUICK CALL: Heatley visited with close friends Ilya Kovalchuk and Slava Kozlov following the game. Kovalchuk called Heatley at Christmas to wish him well.