Malone on Leafs radar?

MIKE ZEISBERGER and LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:19 AM ET

Don't be surprised if the Maple Leafs make a strong pitch to acquire Pittsburgh Penguins winger Ryan Malone.

Malone, a 22 goal-scorer in 2003-04, is said to be available after general manager Craig Patrick reportedly sent out an e-mail to see if there is any interest in the 26 year old, who is in the final year of a contract that will pay him $750,000 US this season.

The Leafs are believed to be quite intrigued with Malone on a number of fronts -- his age, his talent and his relatively cheap price tag. Keep in mind that the financially strapped Penguins likely wouldn't want to add a lot of salary in return, so a package involving prospects or draft picks seems to be the logical asking price.

Malone was a healthy scratch in three of the Pens' past five games.

DREAM COME TRUE

Lee Tucker picked up the phone on New Year's Eve and nearly fainted.

He was asked if he'd like to bring his atom hockey team from tiny Oyen, Alta. (pop. 1,100) to Calgary to practise with the Maple Leafs and have it taped for tomorrow's Hockey Day in Canada on the CBC.

"I said 'yes' and never even thought to check with the parents," said Tucker, whose nephew Darcy plays for the Leafs and helped set it up. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these boys. I don't think they've slept for five days."

So, at 5 a.m. yesterday, the Oyen Crush piled on a rented bus filled with parents and grandparents and made the four-hour drive from near the Saskatchewan border to the Calgary Corral. After the Leafs completed their workouts, the Crush joined them on the ice. Coach Pat Quinn ran a mini-practice, with the Leafs and the kids taking turns in drills.

"You never get a chance to do something like this," said Ed Belfour, who tutored Darcy Tucker's young cousin/goaltender Christopher on the fine art of poke checking.

SO MUCH FOR FLAMES RIVALRY

As the realization dawned that the Leafs will not be back to Calgary untiI 2008-09 under the NHL's new schedule, the complaints are growing.

"Personally, I don't like it," Quinn said. "Those are decisions made by the (NHL) board of governors. They decided they wanted to have more (intra-division) rivalries. Quite frankly, I always look forward to trips out here."


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