Hockey / Sports

Eastern finals series tests coaches' friendship

NEW YORK -- After tossing one verbal grenade after another all week at the Canadiens and coach Michel Therrien, Rangers coach Alain Vigneault was asked about the state of his relationship with his alleged friend Therrien. It was not an unreasonable question.

"I think he said it prior to the series. For this two-week period we're not really friends," Vigneault said. "He's probably right."

That might be underselling it.

Since Canadiens goaltender Carey Price was injured in Game 1, the teams have engaged in an engrossing back-and-forth, with the two coaches at the center. On Sunday, the latest barbs revolved around two issues -- Therrien ejecting members of the Rangers staff from his practice Saturday and Therrien intimating he knows where Rangers center Derick Brassard is injured, even though the team has not released that information.

The practice controversy gained steam Saturday after Therrien accused the Rangers of violating a gentleman's agreement that bars opposing coaches from watching practice on off days during the playoffs. Vigneault saw it differently, saying there is no such rule.

"We were treated very unfairly (Saturday)," Vigneault said. "There is no rule. There was no agreement between both teams. That is the exception, not the rule. ...

"What happened yesterday was uncalled for ... This is the National Hockey League. That type of behavior, we're lucky it didn't escalate."

Therrien softened his stance Sunday, blaming the fracas on a "miscommunication" between the organizations. But Therrien didn't back down from his comments about Brassard. After Vigneault said Therrien should watch out in case something were to happen when Brassard returned to the ice in Game 4, Therrien said he wasn't concerned.

"The hockey world is a small world so we know exactly what happened to Derick Brassard," Therrien said. "He's a good player, but there's no free pass. We're in the playoffs. But our intention is not to hurt the guy."

Like Vigneault, Therrien was asked the status of his relationship with Vigneault, whom he said he has become "good friends" with over the years. Therrien said there isn't any issue.

"I'm sure when everything is over we're going to have an ice-cold beer like we did in the past and nothing is going to change," Therrien said.

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