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Lindros' return is calm

Steve Auger and Richard Lessard were wearing diapers on their heads. They also had baby pacifiers around their necks.

What can drive apparently reasonable, almost full-grown men to such extremes?

Two things.

"It'll definitely get us on TV," Auger said. And it would appropriately, in their eyes, pay tribute to the NHL debut in Quebec City of Eric Lindros.

Lindros has headed the town's persona-non-grata list ever since he refused to play for its hard-luck hockey team, the Nordiques, when it drafted him in 1991.

The rebuff, blown into a quasi-crisis by some who saw it as anti-Quebec, resulted in the junior hockey star receiving death threats mixed in with continual harassment.

Without once donning a Nordiques uniform, Lindros finally was traded last June to the Philadelphia Flyers. Since then, Quebecers eagerly have anticipated a chance to express their true, none-too-warm feelings to the hulking Toronto native.

Tuesday night, they did.

Under beefed-up security, Lindros hit the ice for the Flyers and immediately received boos normally reserved for the national anthem.

But they didn't last too long. Lindros promptly obliged Nordiques fans by losing his first faceoff and then, seconds later, being nowhere around when Mike Ricci, one of the players Quebec got in the trade for him, stuffed a shot into the Flyers' net.

While some people had forecast a violent entry into the dragon's jaws, Lindros wasn't as much bitten as ridiculed.

"We used to be mad, but we're a better team without him," said Alain Gagne, a giant-sized pacifier dangling around his neck. "He's a big, spoiled baby, so now we are just laughing at him and telling him that with our diapers and pacifiers."

Some fans weren't so subtle in their contempt for the star-in-waiting. One whole section of Le Colisee was filled with fans, each outfitted with a straightforward message cursing Lindros.

Other similarly direct signs and banners were scattered around the arena, as were several dozen fans in diapers.

One fan carried an effigy of Lindros hanging from a portable gallows; another, a cardboard tombstone with the inscription: Eric Lindros R.I.P.

But beyond the on-ice pushing, shoving and checking _ and a few balls of paper and one of those pacifiers being thrown at him when he skated onto the ice _ there was no real violence directed toward the 19-year-old Lindros.

"I never predicted a real problem," said Jean Hamilton, spokesman for the Quebec police and an avid hockey fan, admitting there were a "few more" than the regular 16 police officers at the game.

"The message was always more to have a laugh at his expense, not be violent. People are concerned with the image of the city."

Auger, diaper on his head, agreed.

"It was really easy to make, and we just did it for a laugh, really. Though we're a bit serious, too."

Rangers' Domi eager

to play in first game

RYE, N.Y. _ Having been scratched for the first three games, New York Rangers right wing Tie Domi was down in the dumps after Tuesday's practice. But his mood brightened when he said a member of the coaching staff told him he might play tonight against the New Jersey Devils at Madison Square Garden.

"I was just told to be ready, that's all," Domi said. "It's a good sign. Maybe it had something to do with the fans chanting my name (during Monday's 6-2 home win over Hartford). They got me in the lineup in the playoffs. I thank the fans if I do play. It's nice to be wanted."

Coach Roger Neilson said he had not decided which of his 16 forwards will play. Domi, Dave Archibald and Randy Gilhen have not dressed for a game.

The 22-year-old Domi said of not playing, "It's tough. I'm only human. If I wasn't (mad), I wouldn't be human. We've got a lot of talent. I don't want to disrupt the team. If there's not room for me down the road, I might have to ask for a change. Right now, I have to just sit back and be patient.

"I thought I showed I could play in the preseason. I guess I didn't. That's the frustrating part. I'm labeled as just a role player. It's going to take a long time to get rid of it."