Kilger turns it up in skills competition

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:40 AM ET

You won't find Chad Kilger dissing one-piece sticks after unleashing one of the hardest shots ever recorded at the Maple Leafs annual skill competition.

Kilger, only two goals shy this year of his career best 14, recorded a 103.1 m.p.h. blast at the Air Canada Centre. That's not far off Al Iafrate's National Hockey League mark of 105.2, set with the Washington Capitals more than a decade ago with a wood stick. Kilger said he's slowly embraced new stick technology, despite a large number of detractors who believe them to be too flimsy.

"I had a lot of breakage earlier in the year, but it has been good lately," said Kilger, who uses a Bauer Vapour 30. "A lot of it's due to getting slashed.

"When I played in Edmonton, my shot was around 99 m.p.h. with a composite shaft and a wood blade. I knew I had a chance today after I had 99.4 the first time (no other Leaf cracked 96), but I was surprised to get over 100.

"Maybe with a composite, the puck will jump off a little better. But I watched Iafrate growing up and I don't think my shot will compete with his."

At the last skills event in 2004, the departed Nathan Perrott was hardest shooter (100.3 m.p.h.) and fastest skater. But as Kilger was out-firing him, Kyle Wellwood completed a lap of the ACC in 14.288 seconds. That was slightly behind Perrott, but faster than runner-up, Alexei Ponikarovsky (14.435).

"I've been to a couple of all-star games in junior and the AHL, so I had a little experience," the rookie Wellwood said. "But that was my best time today. Working with (team strength coach) Matt Nichol and all the stuff you have to do here to be a pro really helps my speed."

Wellwood also scored the winner on Ed Belfour in the breakaway relay, to give the Whites an 18-17 overall win over the Blues.

BRIEFLY

The Leafs expect coach Pat Quinn, Bryan McCabe, Tomas Kaberle, Mats Sundin, Aki Berg and Mikael Tellqvist back for tomorrow's game against the Washington Capitals ... With Ken Klee and Alexander Khavanov recovered from injuries, the Leafs will likely not need the services of defencemen Andy Wozniewski and Jay Harrison, who were returned to the Marlies at the break ... The NHL Olympic roster freeze ends this morning ... With Tellqvist in Turin and the Marlies on the road, Ed Belfour's teenage son Dayn was the second goalie yesterday. He is playing for a Triple A team in Michigan ... Eric Lindros took part in the less demanding skills. His shooting is continuing to improve, despite ongoing wrist issues.


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