Slap Shots: Giving Vinny a boost

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
Published December 16, 2007

Coach John Tortorella admitted that when the Lightning plays in Toronto and Montreal, he goes out of his way to talk up center Vinny Lecavalier.

Both cities have league offices and very large, voracious media presences.

Tortorella so often called Lecavalier the game's best player during a two-day trip to those hockey-crazy Canadian cities, even he said he sounded like a broken record.

"The league ends up getting a push as far as who they want to portray as the face of the league," he said. "I think you should let the players decide who should be the face of the league with their play. I look at Sidney Crosby.

"He's one hell of a player. I look at some of the other great players in the league. I'm not disrespecting them at all, but I'm fortunate enough to be with (Lecavalier), and I see all the things he does."

But Tortorella said he also wants to be fair to Lecavalier, the league's points leader with whom he clashed during their early years together.

"As hard as I was on him early in his career - and I thought I needed to be because I thought that is where he was as a player - I feel I need to be just as honest the other way, too," Tortorella said. "It would be totally unfair if you're not honest all the way through as you are when you're developing people and going through the process. I'm not saying this only to give him a boost here. It's true."

Old-time hockey

If you like the old brawling NHL, you would have loved the Flyers' 8-2 victory over the Penguins on Tuesday. Four fights highlighted the 2-hour, 50-minute nationally televised game. There was almost another when goalie Martin Biron accused Penguins star Sidney Crosby of tripping him.

"I felt sorry for the linesmen," Biron told reporters. "They were really sweating out there trying to keep everybody apart."

As if that wasn't enough, both coaches basically called the other team thugs. And Flyers enforcer Ben Eager, standing in the hallway between the teams' locker rooms after the game, yelled to Penguins coach Michel Therrien, according to the Camden (N.J.) Courier Post, that he is "a joke."

Therrien fired back with an expletive followed by the word "you."

The teams face each other five more times this season.

Circus act

If you haven't seen Wild star Marian Gaborik flying head over heels over Red Wings goalie Dominik Hasek, go to YouTube.

For those who don't want to take the time: Gaborik was on a breakaway when Hasek came flying out of the net. Gaborik ran into the sliding Hasek and went flying, somersaulted and almost landed back on his skates.

"I didn't expect him to do that at all," Gaborik told Minneapolis' Star Tribune. "Not even in 100 years would I think he would do that."

"I know it was a dangerous play, but it also was a little bit his fault because he never looked up," Hasek said. "All the time, his head was down, and I got him straight. It's just a play you do, but I'm glad he's okay."

He said it

"I really believe there is going to be such parity that the difference between No. 1 or No. 8 is going to be hardly nothing. There's going to be tons of upsets come playoff time." - Red Wings coach Mike Babcock on aconference call

Mask of honor

When Senators goalie Ray Emery unveiled his new mask Tuesday, the organization held its collective breath. Two years ago, he briefly wore a mask that carried images of convicted rapist Mike Tyson.

But all is well with the latest version, according to the Ottawa Citizen, as Emery's mask has two images of Muhammad Ali. Emery's previous mask had an image of former Canadian heavyweight boxing champGeorge Chuvalo.

Odds and ends

The Stanley Cup will hitch a ride on the city of Anaheim's float on Jan. 1 in the Tournament of Roses Parade. It is the first time the trophy will appear in the parade's 119-year history, coinciding with the Ducks becoming the first California hockey team to win the Cup. ... Considering the compressed schedule, Detroit coach Mike Babcock said he will alternate goalies Chris Osgood and Dominik Hasek. ... The Stars went through a stretch in which they allowed the first goal in 10 of 11 games and still went 7-4.