Here comes Downie

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:36 AM ET

Steve Downie could be greeted by so many jeers tonight, he might think he is Sean Avery.

Downie returns to the Air Canada Centre this evening for the first time since his highly publicized sucker-punch on the Maple Leafs' Jason Blake on Jan. 5.

Instead of suspending Downie -- again -- the NHL let him off with a stern warning for slugging an unsuspecting Blake, who was nailed in the left eye while being held back by an official.

"That's over and done with," Downey told the Camden Courier-Post newspaper yesterday. "I'm sure the Toronto media will try to bring it up but I think it's dead. If that happened somewhere down south I don't think anything would have happened."

Former Flyers general manager Bob Clarke supported Downie's actions against Blake, telling TSN's Off The Record at the time that the Philly forward did the "right thing."

Clarke reasoned that Downie was sticking up for himself after Blake suggested Downie should have been suspended for at least the entire season for a pre-season hit on the Ottawa Senators' Dean McAmmond that netted Downie a 20-game suspension.

Downie eagerly is looking forward to returning to action after being benched recently.

"I think we got his attention with (the benching) and he knows he's going to have to come in and play at a high level," said coach John Stevens, noting what happened with Downie the previous time the Flyers were in town.

"This is not Steve Downie and the Flyers. This is the Philadelphia Flyers and there is no one incident outside of our team that is going to take precedent over winning a hockey game."

Downie likely will line up on a unit with centre Jim Dowd and left winger Riley Cote, who did not mince his words when it came to Blake.

"Blake went in there and grabbed Downie," Cote told the Courier-Post.

"If you grab someone like that, you expect to fight, you don't expect to stand there and talk to each other. If someone tried to grab me from behind in a scrum I'm going to turn around and try to fight them. He just grabbed the wrong person. A guy like Downs is known to drop the gloves.

"They made such a big issue out of it. It was so blown out of proportion. It was just bad luck that (Blake's) eye swelled up instantly.

"If he hit him anywhere else on the face it wouldn't have happened like that. The punch was from, like, six inches."

Downie understands that while he must play his trademark "energy" game to be successful, he must stay within the rules.

"We don't want to take any bad penalties because power plays can kill you this time of year," Downie said.


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