Leafs to face bigger test

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

The exhibition season can be crazy for NHL teams as they try to balance game-night rosters with the mandated number of veterans, fringe players and rookies.

Throw in revolutionary rule changes and a spate of penalties and evaluation becomes all that much harder. But the Maple Leafs begin sorting it out tonight against the Ottawa Senators at the Air Canada Centre, the first of eight exhibition games in 13 nights.

"From the coach's standpoint, I want to get (the roster) down now," Leafs coach Pat Quinn said yesterday. "But the (overall) feeling is to give it another week and see where we stand. There are 37 or 38 guys we want to look at to make those last four or five spots (on a 23-man roster)."

Teams have no time to practise power plays and penalty killing in camp, but if the 18 minors called in yesterday's Blue and White game is any hint, there will be plenty of field exercise this month.

"Everyone watching the game is more confused, but we have two or three weeks to get used to it," said defenceman Carlo Colaiacovo, who took two penalties yesterday. "But for a guy hoping to see some ice time (on the power-play point), it's good."

The zeal in with which the NHL-calibre officials called yesterday's game surprised even Quinn. Yesterday's rap sheet included seven hooks, four interference, two holds, one cross-check and a delay of game to goalie Ed Belfour who, it seemed, went into the corner to handle a puck just to see if he would get caught. A seemingly innocent Ian White stick check of Eric Lindros netted him a penalty.

Quinn hopes the end result is that sticks aren't used as tools for weak players to impede bigger forwards.

"Maybe they're going to scare our guys into getting the sticks down," Quinn said. "We have some guys who are big, yet really mobile and can get away, such as Eric (Lindros), (Wade) Belak, Alexei (Ponikarovsky), (Chad) Kilger and Nik Antropov. They have the strength to get away and get some room and maybe draw some penalties of their own."

The Sens said previously that Dominik Hasek would not play tonight, but Quinn said that had not influenced a decision to keep Belfour out of this contest.


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