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Europeans add flavour to old rivalry; Grabovski's feud with Kostitsyn boils over // National Post
With each hand, maybe Mikhail Grabovski was merely indicating to the Bell Centre crowd how many goals the Toronto Maple Leafs were going to score on this night.
Maybe he was totalling the misconducts he'd been assessed.
Or maybe he was just sarcastically kissing off the Montreal Canadiens fans who were hooting him out of the building, his evening's work done with less than two minutes to play.
Mikhail Grabovski will have three games to reflect on the Toronto Maple Leafs' 6-2 loss to the Canadiens Thursday night, and his bizarre role in it.
The 25-year-old Belarusraised native of Potsdam, East Germany was suspended an automatic three games by the NHL for abuse of an official, Grabovski tussling with linesman Scott Cherrey in his overzealous effort to get at Canadiens' Sergei Kostitsyn.
The players never did manage to dance, despite their best efforts, and both were handed misconducts for their vigorous efforts, Grabovski given a game misconduct as a bonus.
There is bad blood between these two, litres of it. Apparently it has to do with Kostitsyn's distaste for things Grabovski is alleged to have said about himself and his brother, Andrei, to Russia's sensation-seeking sports media.
But a feud needn't be based on anything, of course, and it seems that before theirs is done, these two are bound to change their names to Hatfield and McCoy.
The simmer was turned up to a near boil two months ago when the Canadiens were handed an embarrassing 6-3 loss by the Leafs in Toronto. Grabovski scored, assisted and butt-ended Canadiens goalie Carey Price, drilled by Kostitsyn late in the game for the unpenalized deed. Kostitsyn drew a misconduct for that.
Thursday's fun has put the bubbling pot in the microwave.
Grabovski left the Canadiens under a cloud last summer, a player who hadn't exactly meshed with his teammates. A wormy apple leaving Montreal yielded the draft rights to defence prospect Greg Pateryn and a 2010 second-round draft choice; Grabovski has scored 12 goals and added 11 assists for Toronto this season, and he's delighted to be the heck out of here.
Post-game Thursday, Kostitsyn quickly replied to the affirmative when asked whether this feud will resume Feb. 7, when the Maple Leafs return to Montreal.
Grabovski, meanwhile, was all over the map with his comments.
Neither Kostitsyn brother was lingering after yesterday's practice to fan the flames, but among those bemused by it all was Canadiens veteran Robert Lang, who currently centres the brothers.
"At that time of the game? To me, it's just a joke, so why even bother?" he said. "I don't know the guy [Grabovski], but just from comments he probably wasn't well liked in the dressing room in the past. He must have done something that ticked the guys off."
Lang was particularly intrigued by Grabovski's victorious exit, curious considering the Leafs were five goals down.
"I don't understand [the salute], especially when you're losing 6-1," he said. "He's a young kid. He'll probably look at it a little later and wonder, 'What was I thinking?' "
Captain Saku Koivu was intimately involved in the November fracas in Toronto, finally pinning Grabovski to the ice and having a lengthy chat with him, "offering me some advice," as the Leaf would explain.
Grabovski has said that Koivu is his only friend in the Canadiens room, something that Koivu attributes to his helping a young European with no English perhaps feel a little more comfortable.
"I don't even remember what advice I gave him," Koivu lied yesterday through a grin. "It didn't look like he had too many friends [Thursday] night.
"He's a player with a lot of emotions, and a lot of times when emotions get involved too much you might do something you'll regret afterwards. I've seen those things many times and I don't think they belong in the game. But at the same time I don't think it's much of a big thing. It happens in a split second and hopefully he's going to learn from it."
Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau had no problem with the spirit Kostitsyn showed, though he suggested that "maybe he reacted not the right way" to an opponent who was taunting the Montreal bench.
Nor does Carbo necessarily expect this to spill over to Feb. 7, a week before warm and fuzzy Valentine's Day.
"If that's the way [the Leafs] want to go, we'll respond," he said. "I don't think they came in and said, 'We're going to fight all night.' But it's a card they want to play -- 'If we're going to lose, we're going to lose hard.' And that's fine with me. Whatever they want to do."