It was one of the oldest tricks in a book Mark Recchi knew backward and forward long before he started running his mouth. Need to get away from a snowstorm? Book a flight to Florida. Need to get your teammate away from a firestorm? Drop a well-placed bomb designed to divert attention.
The Canadiens-Bruins matchup last week was brewing up as must-see TV after Zdeno Chara unloaded with a nasty hit March 8 on Max Pacioretty, leaving the Montreal forward with a broken neck and a concussion. The Habs and their fans were outraged in the latest chapter of a long and bitter rivalry between the teams.
Enter Recchi, the 43-year-old consummate professional who since 1988 had taken enough twirls in the NHL to read and react to any play. He abandoned his practice of saying all the right things, just for a day, and popped off just enough to throw himself into the controversy swirling around Big Zed.
"The concussion was really a non-factor. Maybe a day, he felt it and then he was fine," Recchi told a Boston radio station. "They were trying to get Zdeno suspended, and they embellished it a little bit."
Recchi spent five seasons in Montreal and knew darned well it wouldn't take a shiny lure to haul in a few players, their fans and the media. Sure enough, just as old Rex had orchestrated, the attention immediately turned toward him and away from Chara going into the game Thursday night in TD Garden.
Hook, line, sinker.
"I don't think those comments are appropriate by Mark," Canadiens center Mike Cammalleri said. "I'm not sure he has a medical degree yet. I think it is what it is when it comes to the brain. These are very unclear injuries and very serious ones. I think it's a little bit disrespectful with those comments, that's for sure. A little bit surprised coming from a guy with the reputation that he has."
The Bruins, of course, had the last word with a 7-0 rout over the Habs that included the first goal 61 seconds into the game and three goals in the first period. Montreal was out of sorts for most of the game. Chara finished with three assists. Recchi had one assist and was hailed for his leadership by Chara and the rest of his teammates.
And he made sure to clean up the mess.
"I wanted to take the heat off Z for a day," Recchi told reporters afterward. "I'm a big boy. . . In 22 years, I've respected all my teammates and all the players I've played against. My record's shown that for 22 years. I took the pressure off Z for one day. He deserves it. I can handle it.
"I have nothing but great things to say about the Montreal organization. It's still an unfortunate situation with what happened. We all hope that Max gets a full recovery here soon. We know he's well on his way."
>Osgood not good
Questions about how far the Red Wings can play into the postseason were piling up after Chris Osgood suffered another setback. He has been placed on the injured list for the remainder of the regular season following sports-hernia surgery.
The Winged Wheels were hoping Osgood, who has 129 postseason games, 74 victories and three Stanley Cups on his resume, would be ready in case Syracuse native Jimmy Howard ran into problems. Osgood, 38, came off the injured list about two weeks ago before experiencing persistent soreness.
"We have to get him healthy," Red Wings GM Ken Holland said. "Right now, he's not close. He's frustrated. We're frustrated. Maybe he felt pressure to return with the playoffs approaching. We'll give him time here to get ready."
Howard was a finalist for the Calder Trophy won last year by Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers, but he has not played to the standards of his first full season. Howard had a 34-15-5 record going into the weekend, but his 2.77 goals-against average was 31st among NHL goalies and his .909 save percentage was 29th. He was 5-7 in the playoffs last year.
Current backup Joey MacDonald hasn't appeared in an NHL playoff game, and his last postseason game on any level was in the AHL in 2003-04. He had a 4-4-2 record with a 2.10 GAA and a .926 save percentage in 12 games this season.
>Door open for Lemaire
The Devils' run toward the playoffs is almost certain to come up short after their recent stumble, but it hasn't quieted talk about signing interim coach Jacques Lemaire to an extension. He has been trying to retire and keeps getting pulled back.
Lemaire lost seven of his first eight games after replacing John MacLean on Dec. 23, but the Devils bought into his defensive style and took off on a 23-3-2 tear over the next two months. GM Lou Lamoriello is expected to leave the job open for Lemaire, a sure candidate for coach of the year, after the season.
"He and I agreed we wouldn't talk about anything other than what we're doing when we wake up in the morning," Lamoriello said.
>Looking out for No. 1
Without injured forwards Ales Hemsky, Shawn Horcoff, Sam Gagner and promising rookie Taylor Hall, the Oilers are doing everything in their power to get into position for the first pick overall in the upcoming draft.
Edmonton lost eight straight going into the weekend, scoring seven goals. The low point came last week against St. Louis, when the Oilers skated more than 28 minutes without mustering a shot on goal.
The Oilers took Hall with the first choice overall last season, and he rewarded them with 22 goals and 42 points in 65 games. If they get the top pick again, look for them to select Swedish defenseman Adam Larsson. Larsson is 6-foot-3, 210 pounds and ready to play in the NHL right away.
"He is better at the same age than [Detroit star Nicklas] Lidstrom and I coached Lidstrom," Swedish national team coach Par Marts said.
Sharks coach Todd McLellan on making every shift count in the congested Western Conference: "The rule-maker gives you 60 minutes, so you should use them."
>Around the boards
* The Thrashers' most remarkable feat this season wasn't their 19-11-5 record on Dec. 20 that had them thinking about the postseason. It was remaining within seven points of the final spot despite winning only three times in regulation since that point. The stretch includes eight victories in overtime and shootouts.
* Capitals defenseman Mike Green was hoping to get a better idea Monday on whether he would be back before the playoffs. He has missed 18 of the last 20 games with concussion problems but lately has been feeling better. It has been a rough year for Green, who has just eight goals and 24 points in 49 games after two 70-point seasons.
* Rangers coach John Tortorella was out of bounds when he became snippy with a New York Post reporter who asked if he would tell his players to keep their shots down in practice. "You show a tremendous amount of disrespect to the players when you ask that question," Torts said. It came after Henrik Lundqvist was drilled in the mask by Marc Staal. Martin Biron suffered a broken collarbone after Derek Stepan nailed him.