'Canes coach can be a comic

Carolina Hurricanes' head coach Paul Maurice (L) and assistant coach Dave Lewis talk during the...

Carolina Hurricanes' head coach Paul Maurice (L) and assistant coach Dave Lewis talk during the their NHL hockey game against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Raleigh, North Carolina November 20, 2011. (REUTERS/Ellen Ozier)

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:52 AM ET

RALEIGH - Carolina Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice looks a bit haggard as he tries to deal with speculation he will be fired.

But he hasn’t lost the gallows humour that he used to relieve tension when he was coaching the Leafs in the glaring Toronto market.

Asked if he appreciated having Saturday off at his home rather than dwell on losing seven of the past eight games, Maurice quipped: “There are no nights off. In my situation, you’re not looking to enjoy a night off. They come in bunches.”

Reminded by a visitor that his team entered Sunday’s game just three or four wins out of the Southeast Division lead, Maurice looked at the local scribes in jest.

“Don’t say that around here. If any positive light gets in here, it might become contagious.”

Has it been easier for Maurice to work with the five familiar ex-Leafs on his team, as opposed to figuring out five players he knows nothing about?

“It makes them easier in terms of where you slot in the lineup,” he agreed. “But there’s clearly a few guys that I have to find a better way to make tick.”

Was he surprised that the whole Leafs roster from his last season with the club, in 2007-08, is now gone?

“No, it was pretty clear they wanted everybody out.”

EX-LEAF REPORT CARD

Of his former Leafs, Maurice thinks defenceman Jay Harrison has made the most of his opportunity with a new team.

Harrison was with Maurice on the Toronto Marlies, but was not going to be in Brian Burke’s big picture.

“Jay was told when he came here that you will be the seventh guy and anything else you get is not based on our relationship. He has been a really good, solid defenceman for us and he’s adding some offence now.

Jiri (Tlusty) was a really good deal for us because we’ve used him in a lot of different spots. He’s not lighting it up offensively, but he’s been a solid player for us.”

“Pony (Alexei Ponikarovsky), I think his time in Los Angeles when he was used in a checking role has helped him. We’d like more numbers, we’d like him driving the net more, but from where we are as a team right now, he’s been pretty good.”

LOOSE LEAFS

In their first 20 games, former Leafs defenceman Tomas Kaberle had no goals and four assists with Carolina, while Leafs “replacement” John-Michael Liles had three goals and 11 points. Kaberle was minus 4, Liles plus 1 ... The addition of Joe Colborne and the rash of injuries leaves Toronto tied with Colorado as the NHL’s youngest team (average 26.5 years old) ... With Phil Kessel’s assist on Saturday, the Leafs moved to 10-1 when he has at least one helper ... Goaltender James Reimer is on the trip and took part in another on-ice workout Sunday morning while most of the team slept in.


Videos

Photos