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Barnaby, Odelein go ape over long-standing feud

Saturday, April 24, 1999

By Dave Molinari, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Forget Jaromir Jagr vs. Scott Stevens, Alexei Kovalev vs. Martin Brodeur or Petr Sykora vs. Tom Barrasso.

The most intriguing subplot in the Penguins' first-round playoff series with New Jersey pits Matthew Barnaby of the Penguins against Devils defenseman Lyle Odelein in a feud that has gotten real personal, real fast.

Odelein kicked off the sniping with some unflattering comments about Barnaby in yesterday's New York Daily News, and Barnaby didn't hesitate to respond in kind after the Penguins' practice.

He offered several blistering observations of Odelein, including a few that didn't have full impact until they were analyzed in detail. Like Barnaby's casual remark that "Cornelius, as we like to call him, likes to get under your skin."

A quick check of the Devils' media guide confirmed that, no, Odelein's middle name is not Cornelius, and that it's not a nickname bestowed by his teammates, either. All of which begged the question of how Barnaby came to label Odelein by that name.

"Planet of the Apes," Barnaby said. "Look at him. Seriously. He looks like Cornelius."

Any resemblance Odelein may or may not have to a major motion-picture star -- Cornelius was one of the primary characters in that film -- aside, it's clear he and Barnaby aren't the best of buddies. And that isn't likely to change in the wake of Odelein's response to Barnaby's putdown.

"I don't know what he's yapping about," Odelein said. "He should take a look at his wife. She's god-awful to look at."

He added that Barnaby's withering assessment of his appearance "doesn't bother me," and that "we want him on the ice, anyway, so he plays his nine minutes a game."

An interesting retort, though not terribly accurate, considering that Barnaby played 13 minutes, 37 seconds in Game 1.

Barnaby and Odelein have, by Barnaby's count, "fought a good seven, eight, nine times," including twice during a game Dec. 26, when Barnaby was with Buffalo.

The smoldering animosity flared after the Daily News quoted Odelein as saying that "I just don't like the guy," and that Barnaby is "not a tough guy, but he thinks he is." And he didn't stop there.

"He's going to be yapping and chirping and trying to do his thing," Odelein said. "And then he'll turtle on you. ... He's not going to scare no one and he's not going to hurt no one. The only way he can hurt you is if he gets you out of your game."

Barnaby gives away about 30 pounds to Odelein, but has a reputation as one of the NHL's most fearless players. Suffice to say, Odelein's words didn't seem to make a major impression on him.

"If he thinks I'm afraid of him because of his quotes in the paper, he's dearly wrong," Barnaby said. "He thinks he's a tough guy or something. I'm definitely not afraid of him."

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