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TnT

By George Johnson - Calgary Sun
Mar 21, 1997

Tabby kept his claws to himself.
He wasn't in the mood to be drawn into a cat fight.
"I'm not here on a personal vendetta," announced Rick Tabaracci, checking into the Lightning's hotel after the three-hour bus trip from Edmonton.
"I don't hate anybody.
"Trevor. Rollie. Doesn't matter who's in goal for them. I have enough reasons to be excited about being back in Calgary. Revenge isn't one of them.
"No, it's not Gunfight at the OK Corral.
"I like this city better than anywhere else I've played. It was tougher for me leaving here than anywhere else. I plan on spending part of my summer here.
"The fact that we're in a play off race has taken a bit of that extra lustre off the game anyway. It's not more important than any other one now.."
Yeah. Uh huh ...
"I won't kid you, though,"Tabaracci added quickly. "It's a game I really want to be involved in."
But will he? That was the question of the moment yesterday. Cheated out of TnT,Trevor 'N' Tabby, when Calgary sauntered through Florida earlier this month, would Kidd and Tabaracci finally square off and settle their differences in the final meeting of the season between?
The Flames weren't expecting to see Tabaracci tonight.
"I wouldn't think so," hedged coach Pierre Page. "I'm guessing they'll either go to Puppa or back with Corey Schwab.
"Crispie's a straight-by-the-book, stats and facts kinda guy. This isn't a time for either team to worry about sentiment, no matter how badly Tabby wants to play. We're both fighting for our playoff lives."
Does Lightning coach Terry Crisp go with his No. 1 guy, Daren Puppa, with one NHL game under his belt after recovering from surgery to repair a herniated disc? Does he come back with the kid, Schwab, whose 44 saves slew the Flames on March 9? Or does he send out Tabaracci, the people's choice in Calgary, and bank on adrenaline carrying the day?
Quite the dilemma. Well, Crispie? What about it?
"We're leaning towards Tabs," Crisp replied. "He's our No. 1 right now. Yeah, he's lost five in a row but how many goals have we supported him with? Two?
"He's going to be emotional. We know that. It scares us he might be too emotional. That's a risk, I guess, but one we're willing to take.
"I talked to Tabs about this 'Trevor vs.Tabby' thing and he assured me it was a lot of hoopla about very little. He told me it's no problem."
Given Tabaracci's popularity in this town, he could swing the fans over to Tampa's side with a feisty performance. Around these parts, Tabby was simply the cat's meow.
"I just hope they don't throw beer cans at me," he laughed.
Not much chance of that.
With Puppa being sidelined, he's played in 47 of Tampa's last 51 games, surpassing his single-season high of 43 games played.
"I still miss Calgary. Tampa's a great spot. Sun. Sand. But somehow ... I dunno, this seems like a hockey town. I'm a Canadian. And even though I was born out east,I like Western Canada better now.
"I miss the people here. Everybody's so friendly. I miss going to Spolumbo's for a deli sandwich. In fact, Z (Zarley Zalapski) is waiting down in the lobby for me right now, to go over for lunch."
With the trade cutoff approaching, and the Lightning suddenly finding three goalies on the roster, Tabaracci's future in Tampa became a very real issue. Montreal and Dallas both inquired about his availability.
"The hard trade for me was the last one, from here," said Tabaracci. "If Tampa had dealt me at the deadline, it wouldn't have been as tough. I think I've proven this year that I am a goaltender to count on."
Crisp downplayed the talk.
"We don't know whether Daren can play one game, two games or five more years," reasoned the coach. "Because of his back, he's still an unknown.
"With Daren's back, Schwabby being relatively unproven and us having three goalies, naturally people looked at Tabby. He was the only proven. But would we have looked good dealing Tabs and then watching Daren's back give out? Boy ... that would've put us in quite a pickle."
So Tabaracci stayed put, and tonight all indications are that he and Kidd will finally collide, allowing everyone to get on with their lives.

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