Sundin happy to stay home

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:24 AM ET

The Maple Leafs are used to getting luggage at Christmas, since Boxing Day traditionally is the beginning of a long road swing.

But the players did not head to the airport today, as a change in the National Hockey League schedule and juggling the dates of a holiday ice show at the Air Canada Centre finally sees them spend a semi-normal Christmas at home. The holiday schedule was one of coach Pat Quinn's biggest gripes with the league and his own organization, as playing on the 26th usually resulted in the Leafs being flat from a combination of two days off, no practice and travel.

"This is nice," captain Mats Sundin said as he looked towards the club's game against the New Jersey Devils tonight. "We have a morning skate here and New Jersey has to travel. That should be a little advantage for us."

Toronto still has to play road games in Pittsburgh tomorrow and in New Jersey on New Year's Eve, but the Leafs get a second holiday home game on Thursday against Buffalo.

Quinn was a rookie for the Leafs in the late 1960s, in a day when the players union had no clout and Christmas Eve and Christmas Day road games were the norm.

"I remember a game in Chicago, we played in the afternoon of Christmas Day," Quinn said. "We missed Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, the favourite time."

No one on the Leafs was in the mood for holiday frivolity that day as the bus made its way through the mean back streets near the old Chicago Stadium, but Quinn recalled that he was taken by the Christmas spirit and began belting out carols. After some disapproving stares from the veterans on the team such as Dave Keon, many Leafs joined in his singalong.

THE SIMPLE LIFE

Patrons could have dozed off on Friday as the Leafs out-waited the Bruins for a 2-1 victory in a game decided by special-teams goals.

Sundin says to expect more of the same if the Leafs are to straighten out problems that have arisen during the month of December.

"Sometimes when you go through spurts as we have, it's easy to question yourself," Sundin said.

"We kept it simple (against Boston), we waited for our chances and capitalized on two power plays."


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