Wade Belak predicts it is only a matter of time before Sean Avery gets seriously clocked.
Citing Avery's pre-game tomfoolery Saturday night as yet another example of why the instigator rule should be scuttled, Belak warns that the New York Rangers agitator is going to pay the price for his antics.
"He's pissing guys off," Belak said yesterday. "He'll bring harm to himself and not too many guys around the league are going to be sad to see it.
"If he keeps this up, someone is going to kill him. One day he's going to say something the wrong way and he'll be clubbed.
"And I'm not saying it will be by me, either."
Avery kicked off his act during the warmup Saturday when he gave Jason Blake a shove, then began flapping his gums at Blake and Darcy Tucker. Avery and Tucker ended up threatening each other with their sticks, but the incident went no further.
Avery, who ended up with the Gordie Howe hat trick -- a goal, an assist and a fight with Tucker -- pulled a similar pre-game stunt against the New Jersey Devils recently, talking smack at goalie Marty Brodeur before the Devils' David Clarkson entered the skirmish.
Belak said the instigator rule allows small superpests such as Avery to get away with his tactics without the fear of retribution.
"The league should do something, especially with that warmup crap," Belak said. "The instigator rule protects guys like that. He'll fight little guys like Darcy but you'll never see him pick on bigger guys like me and then drop the gloves.
"I remember Kelly Chase brought up the point at a players' association meeting but nothing ever came of it. I mean, we've talked about this issue for years."
Belak was not dressed against the Rangers, a decision questioned by Hockey Night in Canada's Don Cherry. During his Coach's Corner segment, Cherry criticized the Leafs for not suiting up their enforcer when they knew the always-feisty Avery -- aka The Pickering Pest -- would be at his ornery worst.
Belak rejects the notion making the rounds that there is no difference between Tucker and Avery.
"Darcy's an agitator but he doesn't say the type of personal stuff about your family that Avery does," Belak said. "It's ridiculous. If (Avery) ever starts chirping about my family like that, he'll get a stick over the head."