BOSTON - An NHL memo sent to teams late last week noted "several instances of team personnel using inappropriate and profane language in media interactions and, in particular, in press conference settings . . . Any such violations will subject both the individuals involved and their clubs to potential fines."

Nonetheless, John Tortorella, a passionate coach, let his better judgment slip before yesterday's game. He declined to answer several questions about why leading scorer Marian Gaborik was benched for parts of the second and third periods of Thursday's 2-1 shootout loss to Atlanta.

"That's between Gabby and I. It's really none of your business," he said, adding: "It's between me and the -- player. He missed time, yes, I did take away ice time.''

Gaborik played a little more than 15 minutes in regulation, his lowest total of the season. After the game, Tortorella acknowledged that "some of our top guys didn't play hard enough.'' Gaborik, who had an assist on Erik Christensen's third-period goal yesterday, had played about half of the overtime in Atlanta and scored in the shootout.

Prospal back Tuesday?

Vinny Prospal, who missed his seventh game since arthroscopic knee surgery Dec. 28, skated Saturday morning and said that barring any setbacks, he could return Tuesday. While visiting the press box during the game, Prospal said he was pushed hard by assistant coach Mike Sullivan, experienced no soreness and would discuss the next step with Tortorella on the flight home.

TKO to Thornton

Shawn Thornton and Donald Brashear dropped the gloves at 2:01 of the first. Thornton's quick right jab snapped Brashear's head back . . . Chris Drury is expected to be named an alternate captain of Team USA for the Olympics in Vancouver . . . Chad Johnson, who received an assist on Enver Lisin's goal against Atlanta, joins an exclusive club. The last NHL goalie to have an assist in his first career start was Alex Auld on Jan. 23, 2002 . . . It was Michal Rozsival's 600th career game . . . Aaron Voros was scratched for the fourth consecutive game.

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