Pony running at record pace

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:45 AM ET

If Alexei Ponikarovsky wants to keep potting short-handed goals this year, he should change his handle to Dave and his number to 14.

That's the first name and numerical ID of the two Maple Leafs who share the club record, Dave Keon and Dave Reid, who had eight short-handed goals in 1970-71 and '90-91 respectively.

"We'll see," Ponikarovsky said about his National Hockey League-leading four short-handed points (three goals and one assist). "About a third of the season has gone by, but if I have the opportunity, I would try to score for sure.

"Some games there have been many penalties and some games not. It depends on what type of game it is and what (the emotions) are like on the ice.

"I don't know what my (special teams) statistics used to be in St. John's, but I played a lot of power play and penalty killing."

Ponikarovsky, who is now one goal shy of his overall total of nine in '03-04, is not fussy about scoring short-hand, power-play or at even strength. This is a very competitive team for job security and Ponikarovsky, after years of being on the fringe, has found a steady gig on the wing with Nik Antropov, between Jason Allison.

At 6-foot-3, Allison is the smallest, but though he's been knocked for his speed, you can't argue with 26 points in 27 games and the effect he has had on his younger wingers.

The trio remains together as the Leafs take on the San Jose Sharks tonight at the Air Canada Centre. The Western Conference has been a mystery thus far to the East under the NHL's new schedule.

"It used to be said that out there was a faster pace, a little more open game and this was a little more black and blue conference," Leafs coach Pat Quinn said. "But I don't know if that was true.

"Now we only play 10 games total against them. So it's hard to know if they're playing a different style. I would say the West are going through the same things we are here, trying to adjust to the standards of calls and difference on the ice."


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