Trick up his sleeve

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 2:22 PM ET


 Pat Quinn played a game of musical linemates yesterday on the eve of what promises to be a pivotal Game 3 against the Philadelphia Flyers.

 Now, whether any of these revised Maple Leafs forward units appear on the ice tonight is anybody's guess. Quinn does this from time to time for reasons that aren't always immediately clear. Then, come game time, the same old faces are in the same old places.

 He may figure a little uncertainty is a good thing, an edgy head space for his players. Or it could be a deliberate misdirection play designed to keep everyone's mind (i.e. the media) occupied and away from other issues, such as a 2-0 disadvantage against Philly in the Eastern Conference semi-final.

 Or, wonder of wonders, it could represent an authentic gesture by a coach who thinks some new lines just might help get the job done.

 Nobody, perhaps not even Quinn himself, will know until tonight but at least it provided a bit of entertainment yesterday.

 "Obviously our scoring hasn't been strong," Quinn said. "We have been generating some chances but they're just not going in."

 Alex Mogilny skated with Mats Sundin and Gary Roberts for the first time in a while and, given that Toronto has scored exactly two goals during its first two games of this series, it would make some sense to reunite a unit comprised, arguably, of the team's three most dangerous snipers.

 Of some interest also was the combination of ageless Ron Francis, flanked by Tie Domi and Chad Kilger. Quinn threw a bit of a curve on that one, given that Domi, Robert Reichel and Clarke Wilm played on Toronto's most inspired unit in Philadelphia. Wilm, who brought some energy and a bit of offensive flair to the table in Philly, seemed destined to be an observer tonight.

 Quinn's reasoning had something to do with getting Francis a little more room to operate as much as rewarding Domi's recent fine play.

 "We wanted to get Ron some space to play the type of game he can play," Quinn said. "Some guys can create that space for others by their willingness to go into the areas that you have to go sometimes, which are dirty but usually get the results.

 "Part of the reason we haven't scored as much is because we don't have enough people willing to go into those tough areas and win some loose pucks."

 Mogilny previously had been assigned to flank Francis but he of the surgically repaired hip is in no condition to be going into those dangerous places, at least not with the energy that Domi always brings when heavy lifting is required.

 On some clubs, switching bodies around at this critical point in the season would be akin to shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic. But this is a tough team to ruffle, a product of plenty of experience and the confidence of knowing that not all defeats are products of poor play.

 "You can lose playing good hockey games and you have to recognize that you can get back on the winning track playing the same way," defenceman Brian Leetch said.

 "From our standpoint, our game doesn't have to change that much for us to be successful."

 But there is a sense of urgency. Only a moron would look at tonight's Game 3 as anything but a must-win situation for Toronto. And, unlike the Ottawa Senators, the Flyers are not the kind of team that will let the Leafs off the floor when given the opportunity to put a foot on Toronto's neck.

 "We realize it's a crucial game," said Sundin, who probably can be counted on for something more robust than the performance he put on in Philly during his first game back after suffering a torn thigh muscle. "But if we win, we're right back in the series. We need to drive to the net a little harder.

 "We need to be in there whacking and hacking."

 He could have been describing the kind of iron will it will take to win this series.

 Or he could have been describing the brand of bad golf the boys in blue might be playing next week.


Photos