McCabe has come a long way

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:50 AM ET

Coach Pat Quinn agreed with the theory that defenceman Bryan McCabe's great start can be put down to a maturation process that started 10 years ago when he broke in with the New York Islanders.

"He came in with a lot of hullabaloo," Quinn recalled. "Everyone had him pictured one way, but his play was (undisciplined)."

Quinn cited the flap about McCabe's infamous can opener move a few years ago. McCabe would jam his stick between the skates of an on-rushing forward and knock him backwards off-balance, a dangerous ploy for head and back injuries.

"It must be something they do in the Western junior league, I would never teach a young man that move," Quinn said. "But now he's smart and he's really good on his feet."

McCabe concentrated more on clean open ice hits and despite a rapid increase in penalties around the league this year, he's taken just seven in nine games.

He was tied for the NHL lead with 15 points before last night.

"Points aren't the most important thing from a coaching standpoint, but I'm happy he's getting them," Quinn said. "The defencemen who get power-play tjme are the ones who will get points.

"He's improved since he got here and that improvement has not stopped. He's always had a flair for points, but as a coach, you want him to perform on the defensive side. That's a real stud (defenceman)."

ICE CHIPS

Quinn was not totally committed to using Mikael Tellqvist in goal tonight, even though he's gone two weeks without a start. His lone appearance was a 4-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers, Toronto's first of the year. But Ed Belfour has been on fire since, making 49 saves against the Bruins on Tuesday night.

"I'll decide that (this) morning," Quinn said, as the team headed to the airport. "It's possible."

NIKI GIVEN TIME TO GRIEVE

General manaager John Ferguson is unable to say when forward Nik Antropov will return to the team. Antropov's father passed away late last week in Kazakhstan, where Antropov has been since Sunday. "He'll have as much time as he needs to do whatever is required," Ferguson said.


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