Accountability adds up for Leafs

Pat Quinn, a players' coach with a long history of loyalty to his veterans, was near the end of his...

Pat Quinn, a players' coach with a long history of loyalty to his veterans, was near the end of his rope with the Leafs when he began benching veterans. (Toronto Sun File/Mark O'Neill)

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:09 AM ET

Pat Quinn has resorted to psychological warfare with his Maple Leafs lineup, and it's paying off in points.

But how much longer can the coach use the one-armed bandit approach and keep winning? After introducing Ben Ondrus to the team, sitting Tie Domi for the first time in six years and then scratching Jeff O'Neill again -- as well as flipping his goalies -- the Leafs had five of a possible six points.

Quinn, a players' coach with a long history of loyalty to his veterans, was near the end of his rope with this 11th-place team when he took this course. And it's a popular move with some in the room.

"No one likes to sit out, but if guys aren't performing, they should be sitting," defenceman Wade Belak said yesterday.

"In the beginning it was the same three guys sitting; myself, Clarke Wilm and Mariusz Czerkawski. I think it's okay to rotate guys in and out because it keeps them on their toes. Some guys get content knowing they'll be in every game and sometimes their play starts to slip. If there's that (benching) option, it becomes kind of a wake-up call. There's more accountability."

FIND FAULT

But after the Leafs completed a 5-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, it was harder to find fault. Ondrus, Wilm and Domi checked well, and someone on the other three lines had at least a goal.

"I don't know how far I would expand (changes), because in the past couple of games we've had more guys on board," Quinn said. "Making people nervous is not the purpose, but what you want to do is have them aware that they're sitting out for a reason.

"We probably have four or five guys who could be in that boat. So it's one of those things where you try to make the right call. Some nights it might not be.

"The purpose of all this is that we've pretty much decided that we're going to give Ondrus a good shot. Someone has to go by the wayside."

As far as facing the Boston Bruins tonight, injuries might intrude upon Quinn's lineup selection. Defenceman Alexander Khavanov did not practice yesterday, continuing to nurse an upper-body injury from the Tampa game.

Brendan Bell or Ian White likely will be summoned from the Marlies if the Russian can't dress. But unlike Ondrus, it wouldn't count against the Leafs' four post-trade deadline callups because the Leafs would have less than six healthy defencemen.

"We'll see how Alex feels after the (morning) skate (today)," general manager John Ferguson said.

The other question mark is in goal. The most recent time Mikael Tellqvist made back-to-back starts ahead of Ed Belfour was when the latter was injured late in February 2004. Tellqvist made 29 saves against Tampa and Belfour did not practice a second day with what Quinn called a maintenance break.

"I don't know if it's makes my decision easier," Quinn said. "I feel comfortable with Telly. He was the difference in the (Tampa) game.

"(Belfour and Tellqvist) are going to be busy in this next stretch (nine games in 15 nights). (It's) even worse than the playoffs. Logic says there would be more time for your second goaltender."


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