McGrattan raises roof

DON BRENNAN

, Last Updated: 7:58 AM ET

From the deep dark shadows of healthy scratch-dom to the centre stage on a cold Saturday in February that is Hockey Night in Canada, Brian McGrattan was in all his glory.

During the warmup he cruised through the centre ice logo, glaring at the Sabres on the other side of the red line. When Daniel Briere skated by him, McGrattan said something that made the diminutive Sabres centre smile, whether out of nervousness or amusement or a little of both.

As usual, McGrattan was last man off the ice in the pre-game loosen-up. When the early arriving fans noticed he was out there alone, they gave him a loud cheer and ovation. McGrattan responded by shooting the puck from his own blue line into the empty Buffalo net, prompting another eruption from the crowd.

To this one, he raised his hand in acknowledgment.

"Yeah, I'm pretty excited," he had said after the morning skate and then, when asked about the premeditation of it all, added, "I've never been involved in anything like this."

McGrattan's much-anticipated bout with Andrew Peters was delayed, as the Sabres enforcer didn't see any ice time at all in the opening period.

But they would come together, much to the delight and entertainment of all.

On the first shift they shared, McGrattan appeared to hurt his ribs when hit into the boards by Patrick Kaleta. He didn't go off the ice, however, and found a second wind when Peters and Wade Redden became involved in a shoving exchange. McGrattan raced into the mix and immediately started throwing punches at Peters.

The top-notch heavyweight tilt saw McGrattan take a hard shot early, then battle back to score one or two good licks of his own. He would get the decision based on his finish, which saw him catch Peters with a short left jab then wind up on top of him after throwing a right.

"If he's ready to fight me, I'll fight him," McGrattan, who fought with Peters four times last season and a few more in the minors, said hours earlier. "We know each other pretty good."

They'll get to know each other better, as what is emerging as the best rivalry the Senators have continues to grow.

STARTS AND STOPS: The camera film and microphones were burning up with some good stuff after the morning skates. From Chris Neil: "After you see what they've done, why would we go after Peters or (Adam) Mair? Why wouldn't we go after Briere or (Derek) Roy or whoever? Those are the guys we want to play physical on, and get in their kitchen. Why would I go fight Peters when he goes and fights Ray Emery? Why wouldn't I go after Ryan Miller and fight him?" And from Lindy Ruff: "It's a pretty good illusion Bryan (Murray) is painting. I don't think any of his skill players were hurt (Thursday). We've got one of our best players lying on the ice left motionless by one of his heavyweights. It was a dirty hit. An article I read he says when he hits, he hits to hurt. You put the pieces of the puzzle together ... (Neil's) hand wasn't glued to his f---ing stick. Excuse my language. Chris (Drury) paid a big price for that." ... Some of Dany Heatley's scoring skills obviously rubbed off on Henrik Tallinder when they paired off during Thursday's brouhaha. The only way Tallinder wasn't going to successfully complete a neat and tidy give-and-go with Drew Stafford was by hitting Roy in the back of the leg with a shot that went straight to mesh.

THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMM...: A nice photo, if you were able to catch it, would have been McGrattan and Neil congratulating each other after the latter beat up Mair in a second-period fight. They looked like they were celebrating a goal ... The media that follows the Sabres was getting a little pushy last night. An interview Buffalo TV had with Bruce Garrioch was cut short when the Sun scribe was asked about a letter posted on the Sabres website from owner Tom Golisano to NHL commish Gary Bettman. "It takes whining to a new level," said Garrioch ... A $10,000 fine? Yeah, that hurt Ruff. Just like the sting I feel losing 20 bucks through the hole in my jeans ... Peter Schaefer was talking to players on the Buffalo bench after almost getting knocked through the door in the boards. Most likely they were apologizing for not making sure it was securely shut.

BETWEEN PERIODS: Making his NHL debut for the depleted Sabres was former 67's winger Mark Mancari. "It's pretty exciting," Mancari, who spent four seasons (2001-05) playing for Brian Kilrea, said before the game of being back in Ottawa for the big occasion. "And I'm pretty nervous." The 6-foot-4, 225-pounder had 16 goals, 18 assists and 34 PIMs for Randy Cunneyworth's Rochester Amerks at the time of his recall. "In 40 games I think I've played 20 on defence and 20 as a forward," he said of being trained as a blue liner who can quickly and smoothly move the puck out of the zone. "Cunney coaches like Killer that way." One of Mancari's subtle contributions was to bump Heatley off the puck and steal it from him in the Sabres zone, then sending his linemates on a break.

BOTTOM SHELF STUFF: Spezza became the ninth Senator to score a shorthanded goal this season when he notched his first, with one second left on a Neil penalty in the first. It was the first "shortie" of his career ... McGrattan doesn't need much of a scouting report before going into a game. "I'm not a film guy," he said. "As long as I know which hand the guy uses, I'm good." Neil, who tried to goad Mair into a fight on their first shift of the game, took another minor when coming to the defence of Spezza after he fell into the boards following some incidental contact with Mair.


Videos

Photos