Bob Probert versus Tie Domi...Sean Avery versus Dion Phaneuf…Mikhail Grabovski versus the Kostitsyn siblings?
The rivalry between the Habs' brothers from Belarus and the Maple Leafs rookie forward may not be a heavyweight tilt, but it has been one of the more entertaining subplots of the NHL season.
They were all teammates last year in Montreal, however once Grabovski was traded to the Leafs in the off-season, the rivalry really took off. It reached a boiling point just over a month ago during a 6-2 demolition of the Maple Leafs at the hands of the hated Habs. The 25-year old Grabovski was so incensed with the younger Kostitsyn (Sergei) that he shoved a linesman earning himself a three-game suspension in the process.
Following the game, the Leafs' youngster was quoted as saying:
"If (Sergei) wants to fight, we'll go in the street and every minute of every day I'll wait for him and we'll fight."
The reason for the rivalry remains unknown, however teammates on both sides believe it has something to do with sharing the same nationality.
Older brother Andrei would not discuss the feud but did state that Grabovski, "…talks too much in the Russian newspapers about me and my brother."
While both players were born in Belarus, Grabovski believes that Kostitsyn's heritage should be questioned.
"I think he is not Belarussian now, he is French because I never fight with Belarussian guys."
Canadiens heavyweight Georges Laraque thought the prospect of the two flyweights throwing down would be hilarious. "I think it would look really funny," Laraque said of the potential tilt between the pair who are both generously listed at 5'11".
Other teammates looked at the duel a little more analytically.
"They're both competitive kids with a lot of fire, so if it happens, it would be quite interesting," said Canadiens blueliner Ryan O'Byrne.
"It's always kind of fun when you see a couple of skill players who never fight go at it. But in this situation, I've got to take Sergei. He's the bigger guy, he plays a little meaner out there and, in a fight, I think he'd win."
Injured Habs forward Guillaume Latendresse suggested that the pair settle their differences the old fashioned way.
"If they want to do it, just go to the faceoff circle, drop the gloves and then play hockey and forget about things off the ice," Latendresse told reporters following Canadiens practice Thursday. "Just have fun and let it go. After that, the page will be turned and we can play hockey."
Fans on both sides of the argument hope that the next chapter may be written Saturday when Grabovski's Maple Leafs renew their rivalry with Kostitsyn's Canadiens. If Grabovski wants to exact some revenge, he may have to convince head coach Ron Wilson first as he was a healthy scratch during Wednesday's loss to the Sabres.
When informed of Grabovski's situation, Kostitsyn offered a one word reply.
Let the games begin.