Southern comfort?

Captain Mats Sundin and the Toronto Maple Leafs head off to the U.S. South for three games against...

Captain Mats Sundin and the Toronto Maple Leafs head off to the U.S. South for three games against Florida, Tampa Bay and Atlanta. (Toronto Sun/Ernest Doroszuk)

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:49 AM ET

If the Maple Leafs put their minds to it, there's no reason why they can't emerge from a three-game trip, starting tonight, with three victories.

After all, the Leafs begin the southern swing in Sunrise, Fla., against the Panthers -- who have lost 13 of 14 games -- then face a struggling Lightning club in Tampa on Wednesday and finish against the sub-.500 Thrashers in Atlanta on Thursday.

But given the Jekyll and Hyde nature that his club seems to enjoy teasing him with, Leafs coach Pat Quinn was wary of looking ahead.

"I don't even like to talk about (playing struggling teams) because I think our preparation then is relaxed," Quinn said. "We need to have some emotional intelligence to our preparation and not be looking at the fact someone might be struggling. We know they are capable teams."

The Leafs flew to Florida yesterday morning, but had a day off from practising after beating the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 in overtime at the ACC on Saturday night to run their record to 13-8-0-3.

Defenceman Carlo Colaiacovo was recalled from the Toronto Marlies and jetted to Florida on a later flight. Colaiacovo has one goal in two games with the Leafs this season and will replace fellow rookie Staffan Kronwall, who did not make the trip after suffering a right knee strain on Saturday. He is out indefinitely.

Darcy Tucker should also be in uniform tonight after missing two games. The winger was scheduled to rejoin his teammates after his wife, Shannon, gave birth to a boy on Saturday night.

Proof of the perils of not being properly prepared is as close as the game tape of last Wednesday's 5-1 loss to the Boston Bruins. Pitting a four-game winning streak against a club playing without confidence, the Leafs turned in one of their most dismal effort's of the season.

The Leafs, who are back at home Saturday evening to take on the San Jose Sharks, rebounded from the loss to Boston to take three of four points against the Carolina Hurricanes and Montreal.

Mats Sundin, who has 767 points and is one behind Borje Salming for third place on the organization's career list, concurred that easy wins in the NHL are gone.

"This is going to be a big week for us," Sundin said. "If we can keep playing the way we did this weekend, we are going to have a good chance to get some more points.

"(The Canadiens) missed some key players (Alex Kovalev and Sheldon Souray) but they kept coming. That's what we want to try to build up, that confidence of even when we're down by a goal, to battle right to the end."


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