Thrashers thinking win, not feud

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:19 AM ET

The last time the Atlanta Thrashers crossed paths with the Maple Leafs there were 147 penalty minutes, fights, a suspension, roughed up officials and charges of head-hunting.

During Atlanta coach Bob Hartley's post-game news conference, Toronto general manager John Ferguson slipped in the room and the pair fired some verbal shots.

A month apart has not likely defrosted relations since that 9-1 Toronto win, but there has been a change in the standings with the Thrashers falling to second last in the Eastern Conference, nine points behind the improving Leafs. So any attempt to prolong the feud would risk of further damage to the Thrashers' position.

"I think every player in that game remembers what happened that night," Thrashers defenceman Garnet Exelby said prior to their game last night in Philadelphia. "But right now, we can only think of the points and stringing together some wins. Otherwise, we dig our hole even deeper."

Eric Boulton, whose hit on Eric Lindros triggered much of the brawling in Philips Arena back on Oct. 14, planned to be ready for the Leafs, whatever mood they're in.

"We both have physical teams and it's going to be physical regardless," Boulton told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week. "How Toronto plays, that's how we play. It should be a good, hard physical game.

"I think it was blown way out of proportion. Stuff like that happens all of the time and it's part of the game and it was definitely no cheap shots intended."

Hartley was severely criticized by the Leafs for allegedly ordering his club to target Leafs stars as the score climbed toward 10.

But Hartley went to great lengths to keep last week's 9-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes from sliding into similar Slap Shot antics.

"We're making a push to get back in the playoff race and we have no points to waste," Hartley said.

Exelby called the blowout loss to the Leafs one of the low points of the year, but said it has helped the Thrashers play smarter hockey.

Tucker was cut for 20 stitches when his head was shoved into a partition along the end boards, netting Thrashers Andy Sutton a five-game suspension. Tie Domi of the Leafs risked a suspension himself when he pushed away a linesman while trying to get at Boulton.


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