A night of firsts for Leafs

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

Two Marlies made surprise starts in the Maple Leafs' 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes last night.

Brendan Bell was spared a fourth big-league heartbreak yesterday, thanks to Wade Belak's newborn daughter, and Alex Suglobov got the call for the first time since being acquired from the New Jersey Devils for Ken Klee at the trade deadline.

Bell can use his first National Hockey League cheque to send the Belak family a nice baby basket after the birth opened the door to his Maple Leafs debut. Belak was given the night off under a special rule allowing a non-roster player to replace a regular for personal reasons. Belak's wife, actress Jennifer Russell, went into labour yesterday morning with the couple's second daughter.

Bell was summoned from the Marlies again after three false alarms, including a March 7 game against Montreal when his parents were about to drive here from Ottawa. Coach Pat Quinn had said Bell would play against the Habs, but used Belak instead.

On trade deadline day that same week, Bell flew to Long Island to join the Leafs, but with Luke Richardson arriving from Columbus in time, he took a plane home the morning of the game. A week ago, he came up just in case injured Alexander Khavanov was not ready to face Boston, but the latter recovered in time.

"My mom and dad made it (from Nepean), and two of three siblings," Bell said after the game. "I guess the other one was watching from home."

He said his debut with the big club was special, even if he will be sent back down to the Marlies.

"I've watched two or three games here, but it's definitely a different feeling being on that bench. I almost zoned out and had to pinch myself to listen at the end to how loud it got. We haven't had a crowd like that at Ricoh, but hopefully we do at playoff time."

Suglobov, who will stay with the Leafs, also was thrilled to get into the lineup.

"I didn't know what to expect from a new organization," Suglobov said. "I wasn't surprised that they sent me to the Marlies but now I'm really happy that they called me up."

Leafs general manager John Ferguson Jr. said Suglobov was inserted to bring a "different skill set to our lineup," and Quinn was, for the most part, happy with what he saw.

"He had a little bit of risk in his stick-handling, but for his first game, he did well," Quinn said.


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