Originally created 11/29/00

Lynx prepare to face a former teammate



Come gametime, he anticipates a huge adrenalin surge, one fueled by a simultaneous rush of sadness, nervousness and anger.

And Lars Pettersen won't even be on the ice.

"It's going to be a real emotional night," said the injured Lynx center. "I'm really not looking forward to it."

If Pettersen thinks his emotions will run the gamut as he watches from the rafters, imagine the feelings that will be simmering inside Chris Thompson?

After more than two years in a Lynx uniform, Thompson was traded Monday along with rookie goalie J.R. Prestifilippo to the Greensboro Generals for goalie Erasmo Saltarelli. The 22-year-old forward makes his debut with his new team against his former club tonight at Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center.

"It was tough for Thomper to leave," said Pettersen, less than 24 hours after the deal. "It was tough on a lot of us. There's a sour taste in a lot of people's mouths."

Coach Scott MacPherson and general manager Paul Gamsby knew the trade wouldn't sit well with players and fans. They also knew the last-place Lynx no longer could rely on two rookies in net.

By acquiring the 26-year-old Saltarelli, a third-year pro under contract with the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks, MacPherson says an important piece to a winning puzzle now is in place.

"Hopefully, Erasmo does his job and gives everyone a chance to see right off the bat that the trade was made for a reason," MacPherson said. "Unfortunately, we had to give up a big part of our team in Thompson. But goaltending is also a very big part of the team."

Pettersen doesn't doubt the ability of Saltarelli - who makes his Lynx debut tonight - but he still questions the motivation behind the trade.

"I think they pushed the panic button," said Pettersen, Thompson's roommate for the past two years. "All I know is Greensboro got a hell of a deal out of it. Let's see how it works out for us."

Pettersen continued: "I hope it's not putting any pressure on this guy (Saltarelli), but I hope he does well. There's a lot of pressure on him and on the guys that made the trade. If he doesn't pan out, there's going to be a lot of (ticked) off season-ticket holders in the stands watching the game."

While several other players agreed, all refused to comment on the deal. One of the veterans said Gamsby instructed the players to keep their opinions to themselves.

"You don't trade a character guy like Thomper," said Pettersen, who has been on injured reserve since Nov. 3 with a separated shoulder and is expected to return to the lineup next week. "When it comes time to sign here next year, you don't forget things like that."

Captain Scott Morrow hopes the Lynx quickly put the trade behind them and focus on turning things around.

"We're 6-10-2," Morrow said. "They obviously had to do something to help the hockey team."

By sheer chance, the schedule won't let anyone forget the trade just yet. Tonight is the first of five meetings between the Generals and Lynx this season, and the teams don't meet again until Feb. 16 at Greensboro Coliseum.

"It sure will be interesting," MacPherson said. "We'll sell some more tickets, and there probably will be some pro-Thompson signs. Hopefully, the fans will also welcome Erasmo, and we can move forward after this."

Thompson says moving on after two-plus years in Augusta won't be easy.

"I loved Augusta," said the native of Saskatchewan, who posted career-high numbers last season with 23 goals, 53 points and 184 PIMs. "The fans and the people have been great to me. Hopefully, there will be 5,000 Greensboro fans in the barn (tonight)."

Thompson, who agreed in October to a buyout of his NHL contract by New Jersey for a chance to return to the Lynx, added the trade had nothing to do with Augusta's goaltending problem. He suggested it was more for personal reasons."Goaltending isn't the problem," he said. "The problem is they built a college team that doesn't play defensive hockey. That's the problem. Well, I didn't play college hockey, so I guess I didn't fit in. That's why I'm not there anymore."

Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425 or robm99@hotmail.com.