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Thursday, May 13, 2004
Hitchcock: Lightning going too far with slashing

Associated Press

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Philadelphia Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock is angry. He says his players are being slashed in the back of their legs by the Tampa Bay Lightning, and he won't keep quiet about it.

Hitchcock responded Thursday to a rant a day earlier by John Tortorella in which the Lightning coach told Hitchcock to stop yelling at Tampa Bay players and to "shut his yap'' during the Eastern Conference finals.

After reserving comment Wednesday, choosing instead to tell Tortorella to "mind his own business," Hitchcock shed some light on what angered him.

Hitchcock contends his players were whacked in the back of the legs as they returned to the Philadelphia bench -- out of the play and not anticipating contact. No penalties were called on this infraction in Game 2.

"If you're going to hit people, hit them from the front or hit them from the side," Hitchcock said after a warmup skate before Game 3 on Thursday night. "There is one thing that upsets the bench and the coaches, it's happened two or three times against this team, and it's very, very upsetting.

"We don't like it, so we're not going to sit there and quietly watch it. It has no place in the game and it is a very, very dangerous play."

Tortorella declined comment after the Lightning skated Thursday morning but 40-year-old captain Dave Andreychuk said the accusations are minor.

"It happens every game, both sides," said Andreychuk, who made his NHL debut in 1982. "The only way it didn't happen is in the early '80s when the benches were across the ice from each other.

"I think it's blown out of proportion. I don't know if the coach is trying to take pressure off his team."

The Flyers played a physical second-round series against Toronto, but Hitchcock wasn't bothered nearly as much by the Maple Leafs' hits because they came face to face.

Hitchcock playfully said he didn't remember who the offending Lightning players were. Flyers forward Mark Recchi said he wasn't aware of it, while teammate Branko Radivojevic said he knew who did it but wouldn't name names.

"We'll take the slash, we'll take the power play," Radivojevic said.

At the start of a session with reporters Wednesday, before the Lightning flew to Philadelphia, Tortorella lashed out at Hitchcock.

"We know Hitch is going to be talking about anything that's on his mind and will talk to anybody who'll listen to him as far as some of the dialogue that goes on within a series. We accept that," Tortorella said. "When a coach starts bringing that dialogue onto the ice, behind the bench, more or less bringing that dialogue within the opposing team's players, it's wrong.

"Last time I looked, he's wearing a suit back there, the same type of suit I'm wearing. He's not in the battle. There are two quality teams here. He should shut his yap. It's not about him. It's about two quality teams."

Hitchcock said Tortorella voiced similar rhetoric in December.

"The next conversation will be 'The lowly Tampa Bay Lightning against the mighty Philadelphia Flyers,'' Hitchcock said. "We've seen it before, we understand what's happening."

The teams split the first two games of the best-of-seven series, with the Flyers winning 6-2 in Game 2.

Recchi wasn't aware Hitchcock was yelling at the Lightning since the taskmaster coach is usually yapping at his own team. He has learned to tune it all out.

"I didn't hear a thing," Recchi said. Hitchcock's response: "Good for him."

Hitchcock said he won't stifle his remarks, especially about a subject that clearly upsets him, and he won't seek help from officials,

"They've got enough of a job to do right now," he said. "We'll take care of our own."

When it was suggested a curtain separate the benches, Hitchcock said: "I hope not. I want to see what's going on over there."