Jeff O'Neill came out of the press box last night, joking that he didn't have to resort to bribery of coach Pat Quinn to restore his place in the Maple Leafs lineup.
"I was going to take Pat to the Irish Embassy (in Toronto) for lunch, just to wish him luck in Turin," O'Neill said with a wink, after joining the starters with an early exit from the morning skate yesterday at Madison Square Garden. "You just want to be back in the lineup and part of the solution."
Mired in a season-long slump, O'Neill had been benched by Quinn the past two games, both Toronto victories. Mariusz Czerkawski and Clarke Wilm sat out last night.
WAYNE WEIGHS ON MINDS
Olympic-bound NHLers are divided about the effect the Wayne Gretzky gambling story will have on Team Canada at Turin.
"I don't say it's not going to be (a distraction)," New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur told the New York Post. "It's the worst timing, and not just because of Wayne. It's (bad for) hockey. It's going to affect you. When we get to Europe, there are going to be questions asked."
But Leafs defenceman Bryan McCabe, making his first trip to the Olympics, is not worried.
"Our goal is the gold," McCabe said. "They can ask us over there all they want; none of us know anything about (Gretzky), so we can't comment on it. It's an issue for all those people involved, but for us it's a non-issue."
Goalie Mikael Tellqvist, whose Swedish countrymen upset Canada in 2002 at Salt Lake, takes McCabe's view.
"I don't think it will affect Canada," said Tellqvist, who will back up Henrik Lundqvist in Turin. "Hockey players are pretty good to put that kind of stuff out of their mind when they're on the ice."
McCabe was quite amused to hear the story about Montreal goaltender Jose Theodore and the hair restoring medication that led to a positive drug test. "You should talk to a few guys on this team who are going bald," McCabe said. "They might have to get off that stuff, too."... Quinn and ex-Ranger Tie Domi skipped the Leafs' skate yesterday to attend the funeral of Dennis (Chief) Ryan, long-time head of security for the Rangers.