Artyukhin doesn't understand the hubbub
The first thing right wing Evgeny Artyukhin said he is going to do in Tuesday night's game with the Maple Leafs, is tell Toronto's Ben Ondrus that he does indeed speak English. You remember the moment, of course, from last week's game in Toronto in which Ondrus took exception to Artyukhin's stick between his legs on a faceoff because "he was trying to lift me up or something."
Ondrus also said someone should beat the (snot) out of Artyukhin and complained that Artyukhin could not speak "a word of English." That led to Artyukhin joking that he would correct Ondrus when they saw each other again. Artyukhin repeated on Monday that still was his plan.
What Artyukhin, 6-foot-5, 260 pounds, said he does not get is this perception that he is a trouble-maker. He claims he does not try to stir it up on the ice, the knee-to-knee hit with Florida's Ville Peltonen, for which he was suspended two games, was an accident for which he apologized and the thing with Ondrus he said, to him, doesn't make sense.
"I think it's not really a big deal," he said. "He was on my side during a faceoff and I pushed him away. I'm just protecting my spot."
Artyukhin's teammate Ryan Craig, who came to Artyukhin's defense and tried to fight Ondrus, who backed off, said of Artyukhin, "I don't think he's a dirty player. ... He's a physical specimen. He's a big guy who can skate and is strong and when he leans on you or hits you, you're going to feel it. That causes teams some problems."
Craig also said the Ondrus incident was blown out of proportion because it happened in Toronto against the Leafs, and the Leafs lost badly, 4-1.
"Stuff happens in Canada and it's a bigger deal," he said. "I don't think they like losing to us. I just think that it's frustration boiling over."
Lightning coach Rock Tocchet said if he has a criticism of Artyukhin it is that when he crashes into an opponent and the whistle blows, he most times just skates away.
"Sometimes off the whistle, he skates away from guys," Tocchet said. "I think that's why people are getting pissed at him. Once in a while you have to stay in the pile."
It is not as if Artyukhin won't fight. He's had several bouts in his career. Against the Panthers on Saturday, he tried to back away while Peltonen baited him but finally had enough of that foolishness and dropped Peltonen with two punches. Artyukhin even got a couple of shots in on Ottawa's Jarkko Ruutu last week as Ruutu was going down and bloodied his mouth. On that score, Artyukhin probably was a favorite of his peers as Ruutu is so widely viewed as a dirty player.
Anyway, Artyukhin and Ondrus get together tonight. As Craig said, "Probably nothing will happen, or it could be the other way. So, get your tickets."
Other tidbits from today: Defensemen Josepf Melichar was sent to AHL Norfolk. Tocchet said defensemen Matt Lashoff, the key piece obtained from the Bruins in the Mark Recchi deal, played over the weekend in Norfolk, and likely will be called up for Tuesday's game. ... Defenseman Richard Petiot, who has been such a nice surprise since being obtained from Toronto in the Olie Kolzig deal, said he looks forward to playing against the Leafs "to show them I can play." Both Tocchet and associate coach Mike Sullivan, who handles the defense, praised Petiot, who in three games has two assists and averaging 18:26 of ice time. "We're all encouraged by what he's brought to the table so far," Sullivan said. "He's got good size. He's been assertive. He's played with some confidence. I think his game has been simple and smart and efficient." ... Artyukhin and Marty St. Louis had a spirited competition during practice-ending wind sprints. Artyukhin, one of the game's best skaters, edged St. Louis a couple times, though St. Louis joked Artyukhin had cheated with a premature take off.