Stajan feels at home

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:21 AM ET

Upon entering the Maple Leafs dressing room yesterday, Matt Stajan immediately made two sharp right turns before settling in to his familiar cubicle.

Home sweet home.

After occupying that same stall during the 2003-04 season as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Stajan, like his St. John's teammates, understands things will be different during the upcoming two games against Binghamton at the Air Canada Centre.

This, after all, is not the NHL, even if the Baby Leafs do get to dress in the swank digs normally occupied by Mats Sundin and co. The lockout has seen to that.

But for hockey-starved fans in Toronto, seeing the likes of Stajan, Carlo Colaiacovo and Mikael Tellqvist strut their talents at the ACC in front of a national television audience on TSN is quite an intriguing prospect, judging by the advance ticket sales.

A crowd of at least 8,000 is expected tonight for the contest between the Baby Buds and the Ottawa Senators' top farm team, a matchup some are referring to as the "Mini-Battle of Ontario."

"I haven't really thought of it that way, but I guess in some ways it is," St. John's coach Doug Shedden said. "Some of these guys might be playing in this same rink for a long time."

BIG DRAW

Upward of 12,000 fans are slated to be on hand for Friday's encounter, the type of gathering certain struggling NHL teams would love to draw on some nights.

From the moment Windsor native Kyle Wellwood scored his team-record fifth goal in an 8-3 St. John's victory back on Oct. 30, the Baby Buds have won 10 of their past 12 games. Wellwood has been the catalyst, notching 20 points over that streak.

Shedden has reason to be optimistic now that his team is becoming relatively healthy. The only question mark appears to be forward Harold Druken, who was scheduled to visit the doctor yesterday after a puck recently clanked off the cross bar and nailed him in the eye, causing him to miss the past three games.

With the Baby Buds packing up and moving to the Ricoh Coliseum for 2005-06, Shedden feels a successful season would be a tribute to the people out on the Rock. St. John's already has posted two different five-game winning streaks after only managing a season-best three-gamer in 2003-04.

"It would be fantastic to say thanks to the people of Newfoundland by making a solid run in the playoffs this season," Shedden said.


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