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All-Star coaches Address the Issues

by Staff Writer / Boston Bruins
MONTREAL -- Guy Carbonneau and Claude Julien each will leave their bubbling rivalry where it belongs, in the regular season.

Todd McLellan refuses to call Mike Babcock his assistant, saying "we're here as friends and mates."

That's the way it should be.

The All-Star coaches met the media for the first time Saturday morning at the Bell Centre and they were questioned on a wide array of topics. Here is a rundown:

B's vs. Habs rivalry -- Julien and Carbonneau, the head and assistant coaches, respectively, for the Eastern Conference are also the head coaches for the top two teams in the Northeast Division.

Julien's Bruins lead Carbonneau's Canadiens by 13 points, but their games have been intense, most of which stems from last year's incredible seven-game, first-round series in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Though they acknowledged the rivalry, they are putting it on hold this weekend.

"We both have a job to do and we do it to the best of our abilities," Julien said. "The rivalry that's been created between the two teams has been nothing but great for hockey. Having said that, we're here together. We're both people that are extremely proud of our job and we're extremely proud competitors, but we're able to put that aside and work together with no issues at all."

Carbonneau referred back to how he handled rivalries when he was a player.

"I had no problem going out after a game and having a beer with the other players," he said. "So, this weekend is going to be great."

One reporter asked Julien if there was any chance that he would play starting defensemen Mike Komisarek and Andrei Markov "45 minutes" Sunday night just to make them tired to start the second half.

Julien laughed and said, "We don't play them for another week and they'd have time to recover, so it doesn't matter."

The Habs and B's next play Sunday, Feb. 1 right here at the Bell Centre.

Fighting for fighting -- The hot topic around hockey came up during the coach's roundtable.
Fighting, good or bad?

It's been the question being asked around the hockey world these days stemming from the recent tragedy in the Ontario Hockey League when 21-year-old rookie defenseman Don Sanderson passed away after a fight. Sanderson's helmet popped off during the fight and his head struck the ice. Sanderson fell into a coma for three weeks before passing away.

The Ontario Hockey League has since changed its rules stating a one-game suspension will be assessed to any player who removes his helmet before a fight.

Friday night in Philadelphia an American Hockey League player, Garrett Klotz of the Phantoms, suffered a seizure on the ice after a fight with Kevin Westgarth of the Manchester Monarchs. Both players removed their helmets before the fight.

Klotz was taken to an area hospital and was supposed to be released Saturday. He was reportedly fully responsive and alert.

Even with those incidents, all four coaches said they were still proponents for fighting, but safety is a concern.

"I think it has its role in history, it has its role today, but I really believe as a League we have to look at our responsibility when it comes down to it, and the helmet issue is a big one," McLellan said. "Obviously there are many players that are involved and they're bigger and stronger and they're hitting the ice a lot harder. So, there may be some consideration put in that area as far as safety goes, but I do believe there is still a place for it."

Babcock said he was "under the belief that there is a place in the game (for fighting), and we've just got to handle it correctly."

Carbonneau said he agreed with a recent suggestion from Wayne Gretzky, who believes fighting should be limited to professional leagues only.

"I think that would be a start," the Habs coach said. "If they're not allowed to fight in minor hockey or in organized hockey, maybe in the days, five, 10 years (from now) there will be no fighting in the NHL. I don't think they're going to be able to get rid of it, but they have to start somewhere."

Julien worries that the consequences of letting the players police themselves without fighting would be great.

"For every solution there are always consequences," Julien said. "This is a very emotional game, so you ban that with the emotions running high, we might have some other issues that might be even worse."

Babcock awaits word -- Babcock said he has not heard from the League yet regarding the policy that will require absent All-Stars Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk to sit out the Red Wings game Tuesday night against Columbus.

"Everything that I'm hearing is coming from you people (the media) and that's not usually what we react to," Babcock said. "So, when Colie (Campbell) speaks with me, I'll know what the decision is and how to react better."

On Friday it was revealed that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is enforcing a policy that was set at the General Managers Meetings last winter that any player invited to participate in NHL All-Star Weekend must do so if he plays in his team's final game before the break. If he chooses against participating in the events of NHL All-Star Weekend he will not be permitted to play in his teams next regular season game.

Datsyuk and Lidstrom each played this past Tuesday night, the Wings final game before the break, and are not here this weekend. The Wings say Datsyuk has a hip injury and Babcock said Saturday that Lidstrom has some tendonitis in his elbows.

"We're all about selling the League in Detroit and we do a good job of that," Babcock said. "Nick Lidstrom has been (at All-Star Games) nine years in a row. He has some tendonitis in his elbows, has all year long. He's not playing, but to me that's straightforward. I don't have a problem with that.

"Pavel Datsyuk left a one-goal game after the first timeout in the third period," Babcock continued. "We're in the winning business. We try to win our games. So, I think that pretty much sums all that up."

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Author: Dan Rosen | Staff Writer
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