Pest control

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:43 AM ET

The circus is in town tomorrow night -- and for a change, it's not under a blue and white tent.

The Los Angeles Kings have been the talk of the West Coast this season, producing some Slap Shot style headlines as well as light up the goal lamps to challenge for the Pacific Division lead.

So far on their first Eastern Conference swing, there has been a brawl in Ottawa and a tension filled visit to Montreal. That's where loose cannon Sean Avery had to answer for his derogatory comments about "French guys in our league with a visor on, running around and playing tough and not back anything up."

Avery has been in a cauldron of hot water this season for calling Nashville's Paul Kariya a diver and being fined $1,000 US by the National Hockey League for both diving himself and another grand for complaining about the fine. He allegedly made a racial slur toward Edmonton Oilers' Georges Laraque.

Depending on what night it is, the 25-year-old native of Pickering has been accused of being a cheap-shot artist, a chicken or as Darcy Hordichuk of the Predators claimed last week, someone his own teammates want beaten up, too. Wasn't Jeremy Roenick supposed to be the controversial King this year?

Avery needed an escort from NHL security into the Bell Centre on Saturday night, though he stopped to donate $10 to a Montreal minor hockey player on a fund raising drive. He was booed every time he touched the puck and late in the 3-2 loss, a stuffed teddy bear dressed in a Quebec provincial flag was thrown in his direction on the bench. Avery reached over with his stick and flipped it towards the Canadiens side.

"I told him I didn't want to sit next to him on the bench," teammate Craig Conroy joked to the Los Angeles Times. "Maybe we could put him in the penalty box for the whole game."

Avery did not speak to the media after either game against Ottawa and Montreal.

"It was a tough week, but (Avery) knows it could have been a lot worse," Conroy said. "I think he's glad to move on to Toronto."

The Leafs have not seen Avery this year, with no games against the Western Conference until the past week.

"He's a big pest and he has been a pest a long time," winger Tie Domi said with a chuckle. "There are not as many of them as before, so everyone's recognizing him a lot more. He does what he has to do. He's the kind of guy you'd love to have on your team."

Mats Sundin recalls Avery caused the Leafs some grief when he played for the Detroit Red Wings.

"He's one of those guys trying to make you think about other things than playing a hockey game," Sundin said. "We all know that and we have to make sure we have a better effort (than Saturday's 5-4 to the San Jose Sharks)."

The Kings, who entered the weekend with the second most penalty minutes in the league next to the Chicago Blackhawks, should want to stick to business tomorrow, too. They've dropped four in a row and have lost some ground to the Dallas Stars, who lead the Pacific. They need two goals to become the fifth NHL club to reach 100.


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