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Lindros set to face Flyers for first time

RYE, N.Y. -- With a quiet, steady voice, Eric Lindros chose
to emphasize the positive.

Lindros will play against the Philadelphia Flyers for the first
time tonight, facing the team that cut ties with him in a
contentious divorce.

"Obviously there will be a lot of emotion," Lindros said
Tuesday in front of his New York Rangers' practice locker. "But
the bottom line is that two points are at stake."

After spending nine seasons in Philadelphia and serving as
captain for seven, Lindros was traded to the Rangers in August for
three players and a draft pick.

Lindros sat out last season, partly because of a concussion and
partly because of a dispute with GM Bob Clarke.

"There are some things I'd like to put behind me, but certainly
the pros outweigh the cons," Lindros said. "I can look back and
fill up days with positive thoughts."

He acknowledged life in Philly wasn't always rosy, particularly
toward the end when he and Clarke traded barbs, but he won't stir
things up.

Clarke is expected to make the trip to Madison Square Garden, as
he has in years past.

"There were some tough times," Lindros said. "Sometimes it
gets to a point where everybody had to defend themselves. That's
what happened and I don't second-guess what I did.

"But I don't want to bring it back up again. It's not worth
talking about."

The Rangers (11-7-1-0) will stand firm behind Lindros, who has
led them on a recent tear into second place in the Atlantic
Division, a point behind the New York Islanders. Philadelphia
(8-5-3-0) is third.

The Rangers are prepared if any of the Flyers "take liberties"
with Lindros, coach Ron Low said.

"All I know is we'll be there as a team," Low said, adding
that the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Lindros "isn't the easiest guy to
take out."

Lindros, who suffered six concussions in recent seasons,
shrugged off any fear of being targeted.

"I've been marked before," he said. "That's nothing new."

Flyers coach Bill Barber said he won't succumb to cheap shots --
on or off the ice -- but then seemed to blame Lindros for the rabid
interest in the game.

"I'm not going to make this into an issue of Flyers vs.
Lindros," he said. "We have to play the game, we have to be a
smart team.

"We can't let Eric Lindros interrupt that and make this a
circus. You're not going to get any circus material out of here.
We're not going to make this into a Flyers vs. Lindros show."

John LeClair said it will be "different" playing against his
former teammates and good friend, but also tried to play down the
situation.

"This game's not about the Flyers against Eric, it's the Flyers
against the Rangers," LeClair said.

Rangers' captain Mark Messier, who helped introduce a nervous
Lindros to the team and the city, won't let anything disturb his
teammate's peace of mind.

"We'll support him in all the areas we need to," Messier said.

Lindros already has done his share, leading the team with eight
goals and 17 points. He's registered at least a point in each of
the last six games, scoring four goals and assisting three times.

"Make no mistake about it," Messier said. "Eric is the best
player on this team and anyone who has watched our games over the
last month would agree with me."

He's also taking on a leadership role after encouragement from
Messier.

"He's great in the room for the guys," Low said. "He says a
lot of the right things at the right times and that's really
important. We need that. We need a voice besides Mess that will say
something. He's learning from Mess, too, which is great."

Messier played against the Oilers and Rangers after trades and
had to push aside some strong feelings before the puck dropped.

He could best describe what Lindros will feel on Wednesday.

"There's a sense of excitement for Eric," Messier said. "He
grew up from a boy to a man in that city. People have emotions in
good times and bad.

"A lot of effort goes into taking a franchise and turning it
around and making it into a contender, that's where the emotional
ties come in."

But Messier is confident Lindros will keep his cool.

"It's not like he hasn't played under this kind of scrutiny
before," Messier said. "He knows how to handle this."