O'Neill of old a welcome sight

TERRY KOSHAN

, Last Updated: 9:42 AM ET

Jeff O'Neill is on pace for 27 goals and coach Paul Maurice doesn't think there should be anything surprising about that.

O'Neill has 15 goals in 45 games after recording 19 in 74 last season. His career best was 41 goals in 2000-01 with the Carolina Hurricanes, one of three seasons he had at least 30.

In Maurice's mind, O'Neill is past completely the two shoulder surgeries he had in recent years.

"He is a lot closer to being the player I saw four or five years ago than he was at the start of the year," Maurice said. "There is no way to give a shooter confidence until the puck goes in the net. He has 15 and based on his increase we would like to see him get in the 30-range this year. That's when his confidence comes back, all of a sudden it never dawns on him to pass, the puck is off his stick when he gets it and that is when he is really exceptional."

FEEL FREE TO CARRY OVER

Defenceman Bryan McCabe said the effort the Leafs put forth in beating the Sabres in Buffalo on Thursday night can't be a one-night stand.

"We need to play like that every night," McCabe said. "We need to pick it up like that for (tonight at home against the Vancouver Canucks). Every game is very important. Lose a couple and you are way out of the playoffs, and win a couple and you are way up there."

BRIEFLY

With games in Tampa on Tuesday and in Sunrise, Fla., on Thursday, the Leafs will travel to Florida tonight after the game. Expect golf clubs to be among their checked bags ... Maurice was pleased to see Darcy Tucker go for a brief skate yesterday. "It's funny what a win will do," Maurice said in reference to beating the Sabres in Buffalo on Thursday. "He is never going to take a day off or come back a day late, but just a positive feeling in the locker room, with him going on the ice." ... The Canucks are 10-0-1 in games not decided in regulation.


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