Milestone for proud Heatley

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:22 AM ET

ATLANTA -- Dany Heatley has a simple goal for his next 500 NHL games.

"I want to win a Stanley Cup," he said with a smile. "I haven't done it in the first 500, so that would be enough."

While the Senators' season winds down, the all-star winger is gearing up for a milestone tomorrow against the Lightning in Tampa: His 500th career NHL game.

No. 499 comes against his old team, the Thrashers, at Philips Arena tonight.

It's where Heatley started his NHL career in 2001 before being dealt to the Senators for Marian Hossa in 2005.

So, does Heatley wish No. 500 would have come here, vs. the team that picked him second overall in the 2000 draft?

"It's not really a big deal. I'm obviously proud of 500 (games), but I don't really care where it takes place," Heatley said.

"Maybe it would have been better to be in Ottawa."

Though he is often associated with Atlanta, Heatley has actually played more games with the Senators (308 to 190 with the Thrashers).

Heatley is in his fourth season with the Senators, had back-to-back 50-goal seasons starting in 2005-06, and has another four years remaining on a contract extension.

But this hasn't been a standout season for Heatley. Like most of his teammates, he's had high notes, but also too much inconsistency.

With 34 goals and 32 assists for 66 points through 73 games, Heatley is heading for one of his worst seasons, statistically, since he entered the league.

The puck just hasn't gone in enough for Heatley. There have been chances most games and, for one reason or another, they've slipped away.

RELISHES THE PRESSURE

But he'd still rather play in a hockey market like Ottawa.

"I enjoy playing in a hockey city. I love the attention the team gets," said Heatley. "Obviously, this year was hard at times, but coming to the rink, playing in front 18,000 people every night is something special and I really love that about Ottawa.

"I've always felt that pressure has brought the best out of me and I like playing in that situation. I always welcome it."

There will be one big difference for Heatley tonight.

Instead of getting a round of applause like he would at Scotiabank Place or being ignored like he is in most buildings, Heatley will likely hear a smattering of boos from what's expected to be a small crowd at Philips Arena.

Those fans who have stuck with the Thrashers through the tough times still boo Heatley when he touches the puck.

It no longer irritates him, but Heatley admitted it did when he first returned to face Atlanta in 2005-06.

"It doesn't surprise me and it doesn't bother me anymore. I think that first year coming back, there was some pretty heavy booing there ... but it's no big deal now," said Heatley.

"I come back now and people treat me well around the city. That first game back was tough because I didn't know whether people would boo or not. They did and you've got to get used to that. After period or two I did and after that it's been fine."

BRUCE.GARRIOCH@SUNMEDIA.CA


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