Stajan hard at work

MIKE RUTSEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:50 AM ET

On a team searching for consistency and an identity, Matt Stajan finds himself the steadiest of performers.

Although he's just one season removed from his rookie campaign, Stajan exhibits a willingness and work ethic that borders on the faultless.

The defensive lapses and miscues that have plagued the Maple Leafs through their opening 18 games of the season and resulted in their recent win-one, lose-one style of play -- 5-5 over their past 10 games -- can't be piled at the foot of Stajan's locker.

Whether killing penalties or on a regular shift, Stajan gives it his all.

"I just want to go out and play hard every game," Stajan said of his approach. "You want to play hard every game all year and not have any down stretches. That's what I'm looking to do this season and so far so good."

SMOOTH SKATING

That strong work ethic always has been part of his game, as much as the smooth skating and tenacious forechecking.

"I just kind of grew up with it," Stajan said. "Both my parents are hard-working people and are athletic. I always did the extra stuff as a kid, the extra hockey schools and off-ice stuff. I think my parents molded me when I grew up and it's something I take pride in now that I'm in the NHL."

Offensively, Stajan, with three goals and five assists, is no clank with the puck but it's one part of his game he'd definitely like to improve.

"Obviously you always want to be be better (offensively)," he said. "I'm not disappointed with my production. There have been chances where I could have scored a few more goals but it's a long season and hopefully I'll just stay consistent and work hard and if I do that the points will come."

When Stajan and the Leafs take to the ice tonight against the much improved Rangers, the 21-year-old Toronto native finds himself on the left wing with centre Kyle Wellwood and Tie Domi, another Pat Quinn re-shuffling of the deck.

It's a reunion of sorts for Stajan and Wellwood who played so well together when they were teammates at St. John's.

"We've played with each other a few times this year and at St. John's so it's good to have someone you're familiar with on the line," Stajan said.

"It's good to be playing with a guy with the skill level of Welly."


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