Steering clear of the penalty box and maintaining smart positional play have put the Maple Leafs in good stead heading into the second quarter of the NHL schedule.
But there are a few other reasons for Jason Allison and Eric Lindros to smile, as both made it through the first month and a half unscathed. Few predicted as much when the two were signed at different times during the summer, and though there remains plenty of hockey to be played, that Allison and Lindros have stayed off the injured list has been a bonus.
"I didn't expect anything else,"said Allison, who leads Leafs forwards with 21 points (three goals and 18 assists) in 21 games. "It feels pretty good to be healthy again. And I have probably played more physically than I ever have, especially in the first 10 or 15 games. I don't go out there thinking about (getting hurt)."
Allison played just 26 games in 2002-03 before missing all of 2003-04 with various ailments, including whiplash and concussion problems. Lindros, with his history of concussions well-documented, had a bad shoulder during the 2003-04 season. But Lindros said he was not ready to turn his nose at those who figured he was too brittle.
"Not yet, it's only (21) games," Lindros said with a laugh. "I didn't really pay much attention to it at all anyway."
The Leafs have had a fully healthy roster for the past five games. That should stay intact for tomorrow night when the Boston Bruins, riding a six-game losing streak, visit the Air Canada Centre.
After the team had Sunday off, a pair of Leafs were absent from practice yesterday. Forward Jeff O'Neill went to see the doctor for what coach Pat Quinn called "upper-body stuff"and may have been getting a shoulder checked out. But general manager John Ferguson said the team expects O'Neill to be in the lineup against the Bruins.
Defenceman Bryan McCabe was in New York for personal reasons and also is slated to be back for practice this morning.
Quinn put the Leafs through a rigorous workout but likely will loosen the reins today as the tilt with the Bruins kicks off a stretch of six games in nine days. The Leafs have won four in a row and five of six, and have allowed the opposition just four power plays in each of the past three games.
But there's something more important at work -- the Leafs are becoming more of a cohesive bunch. Quinn has been adamant that proper positioning is paramount to success and that message has filtered into the grey matter.
"Our puck support and our passes have been real crisp coming out of our end," Lindros said. "When you are coming out of your zone as a group, the attack is going to be that much better. Sometimes it is not the rink-wide passes, but the little five- or seven-footers that make a big difference."