Shootouts killing Leafs

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:30 AM ET

The Leafs should either hire a shootout coach or dig up some of those old 'Showdown In The NHL' tapes from the 1970s.

After going down meekly in Monday night's tiebreaker with the Buffalo Sabres, the Leafs now have left six points on the table this season, getting the bonus point just three times. Should the Leafs miss the playoffs by a few points, you can imagine the frustration level. Yet coach Pat Quinn has not often deviated from using a group of seven cursed shooters, two of which (Eric Lindros and Jason Allison) now are out for the year.

Quinn admitted he had defencemen Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberle tapped on Monday had the shootout gone longer than the three rounds.

"In my heart, I thought we were going to go beyond three," Quinn said yesterday.

But Buffalo's Maxim Afinogenov beat Jean-Sebastien Aubin on his first try, while Mats Sundin and Darcy Tucker weren't close on Martin Biron. Alexei Ponikarovsky was stopped on the line. The Leafs' shooters are 4-for-21 overall.

"I know we haven't won many of them and that's the negative behind the (new combined) three-point games," Quinn said. "I don't necessarily like them, but they're a fact of life for us now and they loom large. At the end, they mean playoff spots."

POHL POSITION FOR JOHN?

The addition of the dynamic John Pohl to the Leafs lineup lasted one more practice yesterday and don't be surprised if general manager John Ferguson makes it a permanent fixture.

In what was initially a one-game emergency recall for flu-ridden Nik Antropov on the first line with Sundin, Pohl scored once against the Sabres and nearly had another. That's two goals in six NHL games this year for the Marlies top gun. He practised as an extra winger yesterday with Tucker, Kyle Wellwood and Chad Kilger, while Antropov was back with Sundin and Ponikarovsky

LOOSE LEAFS

Quinn said it was quite possible that Sabres coach Lindy Ruff sounded off against Tucker on Monday night in an effort to fire up his slumping team, rather than single out the pesky Leafs forward. "You can use different things to rally your troops," Quinn said. "It's (a tool) in a lot of coaches' bags. (But) I'm not going to try and get into Lindy Ruff's head, I have enough trouble with my own."


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