Close calls not helping Leafs

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:26 AM ET

The Maple Leafs hope they won't dial the 1-1-1 Heartbreak Line again tonight.

Toronto already has rung up 10 one-goal losses, against eight wins, as they prepare for the Dallas Stars at the Air Canada Centre. In contrast, the Stars have 10 one-goal victories and two defeats.

"We lost a few by a hair, but you just focus on what lies ahead," Leafs forward Eric Lindros said yesterday. "Everything is tight. For one, this is the closest division in the National Hockey League and as far as our conference goes, there are no easy nights,"

Though it's still early in the schedule, the Leafs are hanging on to the last playoff spot in the East, having been passed recently by clubs including the surging Buffalo Sabres. The Joe Thornton trade might not guarantee Northeast's last-place Boston Bruins a playoff berth, but the B's are headed for an important home-and-home with the Leafs in 10 days.

Denied three times since last week, goalie Ed Belfour will take another stab at getting his 448th career win this evening.

"It's a matter of time," an unperturbed Belfour said.

The Leafs wrapped up three days of practice at Lakeshore Lions Arena, with yet another reshuffling of forward lines. But Mats Sundin, Darcy Tucker and a healthy Alex Steen were together again, while the line of Alexei Ponikarovsky, Nik Antropov and Jason Allison also was left intact.

Lindros remained at centre, with Matt Stajan and Wade Belak. A new round of speculation that Lindros would play wing with Sundin was dashed by team sources who insist No. 88 wants to stay in his familiar position and coach Pat Quinn will honour that request.

Stajan says the past work week has been an interesting experience, coming to Lakeshore each day to see all the new line combos.

"The coaching staff is trying to juggle things to see who clicks with whom," Stajan said. "I don't think you really know that until you play a game together, but it's good to practise with different guys and get a feel for everybody. I think that's the point (of the experiments)."


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