Bass runs into trouble

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:32 AM ET

PITTSBURGH -- Cody Bass respects his elders, but the Senators rookie feels there are times when he deserves a little respect from them, too.

Like in the dying moments of a playoff game his team is losing.

Bass, 21, became involved in a fracas with Gary Roberts after the Penguins veteran hit him from behind late in the third period of the 4-0 Pittsburgh win. Roberts will be twice Bass' age when he turns 42 next month.

"I grew up watching that guy, he was one of my favourite players," Bass said after his first NHL playoff game. "I respect him totally. At the same time, he's got to have some respect, too. It's a 4-0 game and he hits a young kid from behind like that? I don't think that's showing too much respect."

While Bass and Chris Neil were given unsportsmanlike conduct penalties after the play, Roberts was handed three minors (boarding, roughing, unsportsmanlike conduct) plus a misconduct.

While Senators defenceman Mike Commodore was "chirping" Roberts, Bass might have also been guilty of helping set the former Leafs star off.

"I can't remember if I said anything," Bass said coyly. "I just kind of blanked out."

Saying a mouthful a little later, meanwhile, was Coach's Corner star Don Cherry.

Following the fight and all the other dancing that started when Wade Redden and Sidney Crosby battled in front of the net, Neil was left standing beside Crosby as the two calmest players on the ice.

Cherry was not impressed.

"When your tough guy is having a love affair with the other team's No. 1 player," said Cherry, "you know you're in trouble."

PLENTY TO PROVE

For Marian Hossa, the second-best thing about being a Penguin is that he doesn't constantly have to answer questions about contract talks. That's because there have been none.

The fact he is Sidney Crosby's right winger and on a legitimate Stanley Cup contender would have to be tied for first.

It's unlikely to last beyond this spring, however, as barring some pretty fancy cap manoeuvring by Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero, Hossa will become the jewel of this summer's free-agent crop and certain to command around $9 million US a season.

Before he was dealt to Pittsburgh by the Atlanta at the trade deadline, Hossa was asked almost daily about the progress of negotiations for a new long-term deal with Thrashers GM Don Waddell. It was an uncomfortable time for a guy who would rather let his game do the talking.

"Basically, the good thing here is everybody just leaves (the contract status) alone," Hossa, a former Senators star, said yesterday. "We can discuss it later. Right now is the time to play hockey. That's what my focus is on.

"It was a lot (of the talk in Atlanta)," he said, before chuckling, "but we only had one reporter, so it was good."

Trying to get him to tip his hand on preference -- a media scrutinized hockey market or a town that has just one NHL writer -- was not an easy task.

"I like that atmosphere," said Hossa, grinning again, "and I like one reporter. How's that?"

Hossa is a key figure in a first-round playoff series between his new team and his former team. A couple of injuries have limited Hossa to just 12 games with the Penguins, for whom he has scored three goals and seven assists. For only the last couple of outings that they were both in the lineup did Hossa and Crosby skate together.

Both feel the chemistry forming.

"I think we've gotten better with each game," said Crosby. "He's strong, skilled with the puck ... a guy like that is pretty easy to play with. I feel we can still get better."

Those who forget how tough and well he played for Ottawa against Scott Stevens and the Devils in the 2003 Eastern Conference final say that Hossa disappears in the playoffs. They have numbers to argue the case. While he has 299 goals, 648 points and a plus-85 rating in 701 regular- season games, Hossa entered last night with 13 goals, 35 points and a minus-9 rating in 55 playoff contests.

The post-season figures, however, didn't scare off Senators GM Bryan Murray when he was trying to trade for Hossa at the deadline.

"Players get rapped often when the team doesn't win," said Murray. "Quite often that's not fair."

Hossa, who was held pointless when the Thrashers were swept in the first round last spring, says he feels he has something to prove.

"I know there was some years we didn't have a great run, I didn't have a great run in the playoffs," he said of his time in Ottawa.


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