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Tampa Bay Lightning: Melrose has a soft spot for Maple Leafs

Coach Barry Melrose rooted for the Maple Leafs growing up and coached against them while with the Kings in the 1993 playoffs. The Kings won in seven games to make the Cup final.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Coach Barry Melrose rooted for the Maple Leafs growing up and coached against them while with the Kings in the 1993 playoffs. The Kings won in seven games to make the Cup final.

TORONTO — Lightning coach Barry Melrose said the Maple Leafs were his favorite team growing up. And it was the Leafs the Melrose-coached Kings prevented from reaching the 1993 Stanley Cup final.

"I think that was one of the best series the NHL has had in the last 30 years," Melrose said of the seven-game Campbell Conference final.

"With (Wayne) Gretzky having one more kick at the Cup, and Toronto thinking that was the year they were going to the Stanley Cup final, both buildings were electric, and both cities were unbelievable."

And it got personal between the coaches.

Toronto's Pat Burns made fun of Melrose's mullet. Melrose mocked Burns' weight.

"Pat and I are both competitive guys. We're both outgoing guys," Melrose said. "We both talk a lot, and when you get both of those things combined, with the pressure of a seven-game series, a lot of stuff is going to happen. It was a lot of fun."

Like coaching in Canada.

"It's crazy," Melrose said. "In Montreal and Toronto, you're right in the middle of the hurricane, so to speak. But I love that. I love the pressure in a market like that."

HE SAID WHAT? Owner Len Barrie blasted a report by Hockey Night in Canada's Al Strachan that Barrie was in the locker room diagramming plays during one of Tampa Bay's games against the Rangers in Prague.

"What a joke," Barrie said. "I mean, come on. We've got four capable coaches to do that. The day we don't think they are capable of handling that is the day I go into the locker room, not to diagram plays but to make a change."

"Al is sort of like a spaghetti salesman," Melrose said. "Al just throws so much against the wall and hopes something sticks. … It's total lies."

Asked if it bothers him that Strachan said his anonymous source was a Lightning player, Melrose said, "Well, if it is, then the liar is in the dressing room. If that's the case, yeah, I'd be worried about that. But I can't worry about that. If a guy is a liar, he's a liar."

LINE SHUFFLING: LW Vinny Prospal was moved off Vinny Lecavalier's line at Monday's practice and was replaced by newly acquired Matt Pettinger. Prospal centered for Chris Gratton and Mark Recchi.

ODDS AND ENDS: F Ryan Craig and RW Radim Vrbata, both out with groin injuries, practiced and made the trip, though it seemed unlikely either would play. … The Lightning will host two watch parties for tonight's game, which is part of the NHL Center Ice TV package, at Barnacles, 926 Providence Road, Brandon, and the Press Box, 222 S Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Melrose has a soft spot for Maple Leafs 10/27/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 28, 2008 6:52pm]
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