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Gratton: My critics might have been right


© St. Petersburg Times, published January 17, 2001

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Chris Gratton is almost a year older. He said he is definitely wiser.

The Lightning's former captain was traded March 10 to the Sabres for defenseman Cory Sarich and forwards Brian Holzinger and Wayne Primeau. At the time, there were stories that Gratton and then-teammates Darcy Tucker and Mike Sillinger had been too hard on the younger players.

It's an assessment Gratton said he has considered.

"As a captain you want to do everything you possibly can to get the guys going," the center said before Tuesday's game at HSBC Arena. "If things aren't going right, everybody handles it differently. Maybe Silly, Tucks and myself were a little too vocal. We could have handled that differently, maybe.

"But that's the type of people we are. We're going to speak our minds and say how we feel, which you hope everyone would do. But that's the biggest thing I learned, just to try to stay positive and keep the dressing room up as much as possible."

It's a lesson he regrets not learning with the Lightning.

"It would have been nice to get some help from the coaches to kind of guide us along," Gratton said. "We were all new in that position to be assistant captains and captains, and maybe we handled it wrong. I don't know."

COMING HOME I: Sarich, Holzinger and Primeau made their first appearances in Buffalo since the trade.

"It's going to be a night of mixed emotions," Holzinger said. "I was a little nervous coming into the city. ... You want to come in here and perform well and come out with a victory."

Each player caught up with former teammates.

"It's some extra motivation to get going out there, and that never hurts," Sarich said.

COMING HOME II: The players received lots of attention from the local media, but nothing compared with Lightning coach John Tortorella. A Sabres assistant from 1989-95, Tortorella did 30 minutes of interviews after the team's morning skate. "I love coming back here," he said, "but I would certainly like to win a hockey game here as well."

COMING HOME III: General manager Rick Dudley was the Sabres' coach from 1989-92 and went 85-72-31 in two-plus seasons.

"They've got players who have something to prove, and their management is from here," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said of the Lightning. "They have a lot of motivation."

ODDS AND ENDS: Defenseman Maxim Galanov, and forwards Kyle Freadrich and Stan Drulia were healthy scratches.

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