The Maple Leafs schedule this week amounts to a hill of beans.
Boston-baked to be exact with four ex-Leafs in the Bruins lineup, though Toronto might not be quite at 100% strength for the first of back-to-back games here tonight.
Coach Pat Quinn had to explain four absentees from practice yesterday at the Air Canada Centre: Forwards Tie Domi, Nik Antropov, Darcy Tucker and Jason Allison. Domi has an infected tooth, Tucker a minor groin strain and Allison upper body soreness. Antropov, who has been nursing a leg injury, has returned to Kazakhstan after his father passed away suddenly late last week.
Antropov's agent, Don Meehan, knew very little of the circumstances, only that the elder Antropov had been ill for some time. It's unclear when the forward will return.
Quinn has been told by his medical staff that none of the injuries are believed to be serious.
"At this point, I don't think (they'll be out tonight)," said Quinn, who has healthy scratch and ex-Bruin Mariusz Czerkawski in waiting as well as help from the Marlies.
This week is a chance for the Leafs to reacquaint themselves with ex-teammates Tom Fitzgerald and Brian Leetch, as well as face Travis Green. It will be the first meeting with former Maple Leafs first-round draft pick Brad Boyes, who was traded to San Jose in the Owen Nolan deal in 2003 and eventually wound up in Boston.
"I know Brad is the most excited of all of us," Fitzgerald said last night. "He's from here (Mississauga) and playing in front of his family means the same to him as it did to me when the Leafs would play in Boston."
Both teams are anxious to renew a rivalry that saw the Bruins nip Toronto 104-103 in points for the '03-04 Northeast Division title. That denied the Leafs home ice the playoffs. The Leafs already have had four tight games with Northeast playmates Ottawa and Montreal.
"I think our division is going to be strong all year long and the five teams (Buffalo is keeping pace atop the Northeast with Ottawa) will be really competitive," Quinn said.
Toronto is coming off a 5-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, a sobering reminder of the work still to do after its four-game winning streak.
Ed Belfour gets the start in net tonight. Belfour quickly put the Leafs' shaky second-half effort on Saturday out of his mind yesterday. Though Mike Richards' 3-on-5 shorthanded goal was a low point for the team, the Leafs did kill seven of eight penalties.
"It has been that way every since I've been here -- we're always under the gun for penalties," Belfour said. "We've tried to talk about it and address it, but we'll just have to keep working at it."
While the Leafs were on the ice, the clanking of weights from the gymnasium indicated captain Mats Sundin's dryland training is progressing well. During the weekend, he began light skating and will be in New York today to have his broken left lower orbital bone checked by Dr. Stanley Chang. Minor surgery is a possibility, but Sundin is well on the road to recovery.