Ondrus not aiming to avenge stick work

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:09 AM ET

TAMPA -- Ben Ondrus took the high road yesterday when it came to Evgeny Artyukhin.

Of course, had Artyukhin lifted his stick when it was jammed between the legs of Ondrus last Thursday, the Maple Leafs forward would have been singing high notes.

For a long time.

The Ondrus-Artyukhin incident was a hot topic of conversation at the St. Pete Times Forum yesterday in advance of tonight's contest between the Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning. But if Ondrus is planning retribution against the towering Lightning forward, he wasn't about to air his intentions publicly.

"I'm not planning anything," he said. "Fighting's not the thing I'm going out there looking for. But every game is different. No one likes to be picked on."

Ondrus is sporting an ugly black eye these days, courtesy of a heated bout with the Calgary Flames' Warren Peters on Saturday.

Given his druthers, Ondrus would have loved to drop the gloves with Artyukhin too. Unhappy with the location of Artyukhin's stick, he was furious when the Tampa Bay player would not scrap.

Leafs coach Ron Wilson was irked that the officials would allow such shenanigans to go on and eventually was tossed from the game after chirping at referee Chris Lee.

"They're trying to ban fighting in the league and all the stick work's going up," a livid Ondrus said after the 4-1 Lightning victory. "Maybe if someone beats the crap out of (Artyukhin), he doesn't do it again.

"I was standing there and he put his stick between my legs and tried to lift me up or something. I don't know what he was doing. I asked him: 'What the hell are you doing?' But I don't think he speaks a word of English, so there's another problem."

In the days following the incident, Artyukhin had a message for Ondrus.

"Tell him I speak English," he said.

Artyukhin attempted to explain his actions yesterday.

"(Ondrus) stepped up to my side. I tried to push him away and protect my spot," he said. "No way was I trying to injure anyone.

"I don't think it's a big deal. It happened just once in a year and everyone is talking about it."

Said Lightning coach Rick Tocchet: "After the whistle, he skates away. I think that's why people might be pissed at him.

"Every now and then, you have to stay in the pile."

MIKE.ZEISBERGER@SUNMEDIA.CA


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