Phoenix has opportunities

BILL LANKHOF -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:31 AM ET

The Maple Leafs liked Brendan Bell so much as a defenceman they played him at right wing.

The Maple Leafs looked into goalie Mikael Tellqvist's future and saw Tyson Nash.

Last night Bell and Tellqvist returned as Phoenix Coyotes. And, you couldn't blame them if they were hoping to make John Ferguson think that a mulligan, or two, might not be a bad thing.

"It worked out well to win like this here," said Tellqvist, asked if it meant more to win one against his old team, "of course it does."

Last night Tellqvist looked everything he didn't wearing blue & white. He stopped several shots in traffic, he cut the angle to foil Jiri Tlusty from the hash mark and kicked out his right pad on Anton Stralman's screened shot.

Bell assisted on the first Phoenix goal and his checking helped save another in the last minute. Oh, and neither Nash, nor Yanic Perreault, who was acquired for Bell in last spring's aborted playoff drive, are on the Leafs roster.

It didn't take either long to realize they were back in the world's hockey madhouse. The hallway between the dressing rooms and rink were crammed with reporters and cameramen. The dressing rooms were elbow-to-elbow media scrums. And, that was just for the morning skate.

In Phoenix, the only time this happens is if Janet puts down a bet.

"There's a laundry list (of differences from Toronto). You don't get cameras like this after practices. You don't get media like this after games. Obviously there's a difference in the passion for the game," Bell said.

The biggest difference for Tellqvist and Bell is that they have nobody named Tlusty, Pogge, Colaiacovo and White cramping their playing time.

"We're not looking to move any of our 'A' level young players," Ferguson pronounced on Feb. 28 when he dispatched Bell to Wayne's world.

For Bell, his departure did not come as a surprise. "The day I got traded was a roller coaster of emotions. I thought something could happen. If anyone was going to get moved it looked like it would be me ... but it's still a big change."

With the Coyotes rebuilding there's potential for Bell to be the "A level" player he was never able to become in Toronto.

"There's a lot of good, young defencemen on the Leafs and I just couldn't find a way to get myself in front of those guys. I've found a good spot here. They've made a commitment to go with young guys and I plan on being one of those guys."

Tellqvist, meantime, finds himself in a familiar position -- a three-way battle for two spots with David Aebischer and Alex Auld. Last year he was odd man out after playing just one game when the Leafs went with J.S. Aubin behind Andrew Raycroft. But, he sees a difference in opportunity.

"I feel more at home," said Tellqvist, who signed a two-year deal in the off-season. "I feel more confident than other years." He looked it, stoning Matt Stajan on a breakaway.

"If you're on a one-way contract it usually means they'll keep you with the big club. I've been working for six years to get to this point.

"I want to be the No. 1 guy. We've been able to settle down a bit. Toronto was always kind of an up-and-down feeling."

Touted as the Leafs' future goalie, he played just 41 games between 2002 and 2006: Deemed never quite good enough, never quite old enough, never quite experienced enough. Always, there was someone else -- from stars such as Ed Belfour to professional understudies such as Corey Schwab.

It left him with profound disappointment, slightly puzzled perhaps. He may believe the Leafs short-changed him on opportunity but he will not fault them for it. At least, not publicly. "A bit," said Tellqvist asked if he was disappointed with the way it all ended last December after six seasons with the organization. "I was hoping they'd give me a chance. But they went with Raycroft and Aubin. It's a business and I don't have any regrets."


Videos

Photos