Lindros takes charge

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:32 AM ET

For one period at least, the Maple Leafs -- sans Mats Sundin -- were Eric Lindros' team.

No. 88 was his hometown team's best man on the ice with a pair of third-period assists and though defensive miscues sank Toronto in a 5-4 loss to the Montreal Canadiens, any fear of an on-ice leadership void was partially alleviated.

"He logged a lot of minutes, he had some points, he won a lot of faceoffs," Matt Stajan said. "When he's out there, you just feel his presence, no matter what team you are on. You can't ask more of the guy.

"No one can replace Mats, he's one of the greatest players in the game. We just have to do it by committee. We're looking for a lot of guys to step up."

Lindros, who moved between Sundin's regular wingers, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Nik Antropov, led the Leafs forwards with more than 22 minutes of ice time. But he doesn't expect all the pressure will be on his trio or whether it will even stay together as Toronto comes to grips with the possible long-term absence of its captain with a fractured orbital bone.

"I don't know about all this talk about top lines and two, three and four lines," Lindros said. "We need everybody here. We've got a good group, we're getting to know different players in this room and there will be a lot of configurations."

Adding to the Leafs' lineup woes last night -- no Sundin or winger Jeff O'Neill -- were the fired-up new-look Habs.

The third alternate captain's A was given to Darcy Tucker last evening, joining incumbents Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberle.

Lindros, former captain of the Philadelphia Flyers, is just one of 10 Leafs new to the club since the autumn of 2003, all trying to find their way within a larger group searching for a team identity.

Some of the club's off-ice dressing room policing used to fall under Gary Roberts' authority, but he and Joe Nieuwendyk are gone. McCabe is the team's go-to guy with the National Hockey League Players Association. But he has been dealing with the union's in-fighting regarding the selection methods of a new leader.


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