Kilger has strength

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:06 AM ET

Chad Kilger was fiddling with one of his sticks yesterday after practice when he was jarred with some bizarre news.

The Maple Leafs forward was told that he, and not Mats Sundin or Jason Allison or Darcy Tucker, leads the club in even-strength points.

"Everyone wants to contribute, but it's strange I am leading the team in that category," Kilger said. "Yeah, it surprises me. I'm sure if Mats was healthy all year he would be leading our team in pretty much every category."

Kilger has 20 points when the Leafs are at equal strength, followed by Allison with 19 and rookie Kyle Wellwood with 18.

Not that the Leafs don't have enough to worry about in their final 24 games of the regular season, but they should pray their power-play doesn't dry up.

If it does -- Toronto was third in the NHL in power-play success at 20.2% before last night's games -- a playoff berth would really be out of the question.

The Leafs simply are not a team that has an ability to score abundantly during five-on-five or four-on-four situations. Of their 181 goals (including two for shootout wins), only 91 have been scored at even-strength. That was more than only the St. Louis Blues, Columbus Blue Jackets and Calgary Flames going into last night.

The Ottawa Senators led the league with 133 goals at even-strength, with the Colorado Avalanche next at 128.

On an individual basis, Jaromir Jagr of the New York Rangers is atop the NHL with 51 even-strength points.

Where was Kilger sitting? At No. 123. Eleven clubs had at least five players with more points in that category than any Leaf.

The season-long funk when playing evenly has been bothering coach Pat Quinn. He knows if the Leafs were even marginally improved in that area, they would give themselves a much greater chance of making the post-season and might even be in a playoff spot now.

"It has been a challenge for us all year long," Quinn said. "We have guys who have only power-play points. As far as I am concerned, I don't accept that. We have been trying to get better at it, and it's one of the reasons our record is the way it is. We have had to be a specialty team to win some games and I don't like it. But we work hard to change it every day."

One could point to a number of reasons why the Leafs can't regularly get it done without the aid of the power play -- whether it's a lack of speed, little communication on the forecheck, or an noncohesive transition game.

But Alex Steen, a freshman who shouldn't be outplaying some of the veterans as much as he has been, thought the solution was fairly simple.

"Most of the stuff in hockey is just hard work," Steen said. "We need to work a lot harder than we have been. We're not lacking, but we could do better."


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