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Rivalry between Leafs and Habs takes on new Belarusian twist

Toronto Maple Leafs' Mikhail Grabovski gestures to the crowd as he leaves the ice on a misconduct as they face the Montreal Canadiens during third period NHL hockey action Thursday, January 8, 2009 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

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Toronto Maple Leafs' Mikhail Grabovski gestures to the crowd as he leaves the ice on a misconduct as they face the Montreal Canadiens during third period NHL hockey action Thursday, January 8, 2009 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

MONTREAL - The long and storied rivalry between the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs has added another chapter.

Fellow Belarusians Mikhail Grabovski of the Leafs and Sergei Kostitsyn of the Canadiens tried for a second game in a row to get at each others throats near the end of Montreal's 6-2 win at the Bell Centre on Thursday night.

Grabovski said he expects to be suspended for shoving linesman Scott Cherrey while trying to get at Kostitsyn, who was also fighting off officials to try and engage in a fight.

But Grabovski added that he wouldn't mind challenging Kostitsyn where there are no officials in sight.

"I think he is not Belarusian now, he is French because I never fight with Belarusian guys," Grabovski said. "I don't know why he wants to fight with me. If he wants to fight, we'll go in the street and every minute of every day I'll wait for him and we'll fight."

Grabovski, who was born in Potsdam in the former East Germany but raised in Belarus, wouldn't get into details of why there is such bad blood between the two. But the Canadiens winger explained the reasons for the feud.

"He talks too much in the Russian papers about me and my brother," Kostitsyn said of his elder brother and teammate Andrei.

But Grabovski noted he only has a problem with the younger of the two brothers.

"He's not smart, because the older Kostitsyn, Andrei, he never fights with me and he never will fight because he plays hockey, he plays the game," he said. "I think it's stupid."

The last time the Canadiens and Leafs met at the Air Canada Centre on Nov. 8, a game where Grabovski had a goal and an assist and also got away with a butt end on Habs goalie Carey Price, the younger Kostitsyn charged at him and drew a 10-minute misconduct at 17:01 of the third period in a 6-3 Toronto blowout.

The two tried to get after each other again Thursday at 18:07 of the third, with the officials preventing a fight, but Kostitsyn predicted the feud will resume the next time the teams meet on Feb. 7 at the Bell Centre.

Grabovski was not a favourite of Habs coach Guy Carbonneau while he played in Montreal and when asked about him, the coach shrugged and said, "I didn't have much to say about him when he was here and I don't have any more to say about him now."

Grabovski didn't appear to show much regret for the incident with Kostitsyn, but he did admit he lost his head when he waved his arms and gestured to the sellout crowd of 21,273 at the Bell Centre who were booing him all night.

"It was emotion," Grabovski said. "Maybe I didn't need to do this. It was just five seconds in my head."

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