Belfour flawless in pre-season debut

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

HAMILTON -- Three years ago, during his inaugural season with the Maple Leafs, Ed Belfour actually was booed by the fans at Copps Coliseum during the annual blue-and-white game.

They weren't jeering him last night. Far from it.

In fact, the capacity crowd of 17,426 broke into euphoric cries of "Eddie, Eddie" midway through the second period last night in honour of the Maple Leafs goaltender, who was flawless in a 5-0 exhibition victory over the Boston Bruins.

Playing his first competitive NHL game since undergoing an operation on his back almost a year ago, Belfour, 40, turned aside all 14 shots he faced and, in the process, temporarily silenced those who understandably continue to wonder about his health.

"I don't worry about that stuff,"said Belfour, who was replaced by Jean-Francois Racine midway through the second period. "After all the time off and undergoing surgery, people are going to question (my back). I accept that and just hope for the best.

FELT GOOD

"I felt good about things. There were a couple of close-in chances that got me into the game. It's nice to get those."

Belfour ideally would like to play about four or five games during the pre-season in order to prime himself for the season opener Oct. 5 against Ottawa.

Belfour was helped out by slushy ice conditions at Copps Coliseum, which kept most attackers from attempting any kind of fancy dipsy-doodle moves.

But even the soupy going couldn't stop young Matt Stajan from catching coach Pat Quinn's eye.

Filling in at centre for the injured Jason Allison, Stajan, who primarily has played the wing during camp, looked very comfortable between Mariusz Czerkawski and Alexander Steen.

Should Stajan continue to shine up the middle, Quinn might have to consider shifting Eric Lindros to the wing at some point.

"We're going to have a tough time at centre," Quinn said. "Right now I don't want to (move Lindros) but you never know what is going to happen down the road."


Videos

Photos