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Kissy-face Burns

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Burns tries to inspire Gomez

Published in the Asbury Park Press 3/13/03



WEST ORANGE -- He was a healthy scratch only once, back during his sophomore year of high school. Scott Gomez got caught sneaking into a talent show rehearsal and his varsity hockey coach pulled his name from the lineup.

Never in his life had Gomez been scratched because of his hockey ability. Not even during his rookie year in the NHL, when former New Jersey head coach Larry Robinson told him he was considering scratching Gomez during a Stanley Cup playoff series with Toronto.

"That scared me," Gomez said after yesterday afternoon's practice at South Mountain Arena.

Maybe that's the reaction Devils coach Pat Burns was going for when he scratched a healthy Gomez before Tuesday's 3-2 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers.

Burns said Gomez will back in the lineup for tonight's game with the Bruins at the FleetCenter in Boston. Gomez skated on a line with Patrik Elias and new addition Grant Marshall during yesterday's practice.

Gomez said he was angry with the benching.

"But I just think that's normal," he said. "If you're not, there's something wrong with you."

Gomez completed a workout at Continental Airlines Arena Tuesday afternoon. He showered. Then he drove home and watched the game on television.

"There's not much you can do," Gomez said. "You let it go and go for it tomorrow."

Burns has a habit of punishing his more marquee names as a way to send two messages: one to the player involved, another to the rest of the team. He sat both Gomez and Patrik Elias for the entire third period of a Feb. 15 game with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"The best player on the team should be the best player on the team on every single given night," Burns told reporters the following day.

Yesterday, Burns was quick to discount the notion that he has issues with his 23-year-old forward.

"I don't dislike Scott Gomez," Burns said. "I wish everyone would stop saying that."

Maybe this would be less of an issue if the Devils hadn't been spinning their wheels these past three weeks. New Jersey has gone nine games without a power-play goal, has trailed during parts of 11 straight games and is coming off a loss to the worst team in the Eastern Conference.

"You get hot and you get cold," Burns said. "Right now we're stone cold."

Gomez knows there's only one way to change his status and his team's position.

"Go bat out of hell the next game," Gomez said.Tverdovsky back

With eight defenseman on the current roster, Burns said he would take turns switching players in and out. He said Oleg Tverdovsky, a healthy scratch in Tuesday's loss, will be back in the lineup tonight.

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Does Burns have Kool-Aid too? Maybe it's Taang. Gomez is drinking it!

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Good. Gomez has been coasting on his Calder for too long.

It's good he knows what he has in New Jersey... or is pretending like he does.

It's good he and Tverdovsky know it's not something you can get on many teams.

Now all we have to do is see it.

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