Anticipating next week's Thrashers-Leafs

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:26 AM ET

If the hype machine known as World Wrestling Entertainment kingpin Vince McMahon was in charge of next weekend's AtlantaThrashers- Maple Leafs rematch, might these possibly be some of the clashes on the card?

Andy (Anihilator) Sutton vs. Darcy (Terminator) Tucker.

Eric (The Bruiser) Boulton vs. Tie (Doomsday) Domi.

And for the main event, set up the squared circle for Pat (The Irish Impaler) Quinn vs. Bob (Hardcore) Hartley.

With the two teams scheduled to meet one week from today for the first time since their Oct. 14 brawlfest down in Dixie, the amount of pre-game propaganda over the next seven days could become nauseating.

"You can be sure of one thing -- the game will be intensely watched by the fans and the powers-that-be in the league office," Thrashers general manager Don Waddell said during a phone interview from Atlanta.

But will it be Hockey Fight Night In Canada, live from the Air Canada Centre, like many predict?

Waddell doesn't think so.

Shinny history shows that, in most instances, games billed as Retribution Rumbles usually end up having little, if any, tomfoolery.

"There are no sacrificial games in this league," Waddell said. "The points are too important to give away by taking penalties. That game is behind us."

There are two particular incidents that left the Leafs bristling, as well as bleeding.

With Toronto up 6-1 in the third period, the Leafs claimed Boulton went after the head of Eric Lindros, causing noted pugilists Domi and Wade Belak to enter the fray.

Minutes later, Sutton rammed Tucker's head into one of the partitions that separates panes of the end glass, slicing Tucker for 20 stitches above his left eye. Sutton was suspended four games for his actions.

Quinn called the Thrashers "cowards" and accused Hartley of using goon tactics. Those sentiments were echoed by Belak, who once played for Hartley in Hershey of the American Hockey League.

Waddell was quick to defend his coach, dismissing the notion that Hartley would deliberately have opponents injured.

When asked if there might be a coaching change in the works this season should the Thrashers continue to struggle,Waddell replied: "Absolutely not."

"People love to dream up some of these allegations," Waddell said. "Bob's not like that. Look, Boulton didn't even play the first three games of the season and Frankie Lessard, one of the toughest guys in the minors last year, didn't even get in the first 10 games.

"I have the utmost confidence in Bob."

Waddell is on the mark when pointing out that goaltending has been the team's Achilles heel. The Thrashers set an NHL record by using five goalies in their first 10 games, causing Hartley to remark that he felt like Braves manager Bobby Cox going to the bullpen.

But with Mike Dunham having posted a shutout over the Pittsburgh Penguins this week and young Kari Lehtonen hopefully returning in several weeks, Waddell feels the worst is behind them.

SCUTTLEBUTT LODGE

While the salary cap is expected to shackle trade activity, there still is plenty of buzz around the league.

On the day the New York Post reported he was being shopped, Rangers defenceman Tom Poti turned in a strong performance, notching an assist in a shootout victory over the Florida Panthers Wednesday. Poti and another blue-liner, Washington's Brendan Witt, are likely candidates to be moved by the trade deadline.

Meanwhile, Columbus Blue Jackets GM Doug MacLean is on the prowl for a front-line offensive performer.

"If I'm going to do a deal it's going to be a big one. Scoring is such an issue for us," Mac-Lean said this week, obviously feeling the loss of injured sniper Rick Nash.

UPON FURTHER REVIEW

The Los Angeles Kings' 3-2 shootout victory over the Nashville Predators last week might be responsible for an alteration in the NHL rule book.

Jeremy Roenick scored the shootout clincher against goalie Tomas Vokoun but appeared in the replay to hit the puck twice -- once on his initial shot, then again as he collided with Vokoun. That would have made the score a rebound goal, which would not have counted.

Preds coach Barry Trotz said referee Dennis LaRue wanted to review the play, but when he contacted NHL officials in Toronto, they informed him a shootout goal was not reviewable.

"I think something will definitely change during the season," NHL vice-president of operations Mike Murphy said. "It's just how fast it can get done, that's all.

"This is one of those things that slipped through the cracks when we put the shootout in."

ANDY'S NOT DANDY

Tampa Bay Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk was a healthy scratch Tuesday in Montreal for the first time since 2000-01 when he was with the Buffalo Sabres.

Andreychuk took the high road, saying he was "a little upset" about not playing, but not angry with coach John Tortorella.

"I'm smart enough to know it's about the team," Andreychuk said. "They're just trying to get wins and switching up the lineup. I understand that. I don't like it, but that's part of the business."

CROSS CHECKS

Former Maple Leaf Joe Nieuwendyk is expected to accompany the Florida Panthers on a lengthy trip that starts in Philadelphia today. Nieuwendyk, who started practising again this week, had considered surgery for his ailing back ... A handful of fans in Calgary showed little class in authoring signs aimed at the Canucks' Todd Bertuzzi. One placard read: "Hey Bert, Wanna Go? My Back's Turned." Another one brandished by a spectator in the wheelchair section said "Bertuzzi Did This To Me."


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