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|27 февраля 2013 года.
Grabovski centre of attention: Feisty forward's history with Habs often leads to some fireworks // Toronto Star
They hate Mikhail Grabovski in Montreal.
They love him in Toronto.
It's quite astonishing how the career of a Belorussian hockey player has been intertwined so intricately with hockey's oldest rivalry - the Toronto Maple Leafs vs. the Montreal Canadiens.
Grabovski, a former prospect and suspected malcontent with the Canadiens, was shipped to the Leafs in 2008 for a second-round pick and prospect Greg Pateryn in what was perhaps the best trade former GM Cliff Fletcher made in his second go-round running the Leafs.
"It's the old story," said Leafs legend Wendel Clark. "He started in Montreal, he ends up in Toronto. It's a relationship that becomes part of the game and becomes part of both cities.
"It's part of the excitement that make the games fun to play."
Whether it was his famed run-ins with the Kostitsyn brothers (fellow Belorussians now gone from the Montreal lineup) or his latest dust-up with the alleged biting of Montreal star Max Pacioretty on Feb. 9, Grabovski always seems to find a way to distract the Canadiens.
"He's figured out a way to have everyone in Montreal hate him and have all the Toronto people love him," said teammate Clarke MacArthur. "He always seems to score big goals. Or bite someone. There's always something going on there."
Grabovski tried to downplay his past with the Canadiens, a team he walked out on as a rookie after being made a healthy scratch.
"A couple guys who I played against and with . . . how many years ago? Five years ago? So long ago, I can't remember," said Grabovski. "But I think they still remember me, in a good way. Maybe that's good. They play hard against me, I play hard against them."
Grabovski had been a favoured target - from jeers from the Hab faithful and hard checks from Montreal players - on Feb. 9 when the Leafs embarrassed Montreal 6-0 at the Bell Centre. He finally had enough in a corner melee in the third period and appeared to bite Pacioretty; the league reviewed the incident and Grabovski was neither fined nor suspended.
The Habs practised in Toronto at the MasterCard Centre but Pacioretty declined to speak to reporters. The Leafs practised at the Air Canada Centre and joked around a little about the whole Grabovski-Pacioretty incident.
"He's going to come out and play hard," MacArthur said of Grabovski. "Whatever happens, we're going to be out there. I don't think there's going to be any kind of bounty on his head. If there is, it's going to be a fun game to watch."
One of the Leafs most consistent performers, Grabovski seems to play his best against Montreal. He has more points against Montreal - 18 in 26 games - than against any other team.
A game against Montreal comes at a pivotal time for Grabovski. He had slumbered through a nine-game pointless streak, but now has three goals in his past four games.
Grabovski has a more defensive role under Leafs coach Randy Carlyle but he still wants some offence.
"With him, it's about his skating ability," said Carlyle. "He's got to learn to stop more. When he plays more stop-and-go, things get better around him."
Carlyle said he's more worried about the Canadiens - on a 6-0-2 run since losing to the Leafs earlier in the month - than any sideshow featuring Grabovski and Pacioretty.
"Two teams are competing for two points. We have to be prepared for their A-game.
"Everything else is a sidebar."
Credit: Kevin McGran Toronto Star