Panthers feel Leafs' pain

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:18 AM ET

They say what goes around, comes around and Jacques Martin last night was ready to put the boots to the Leafs, the team that beat his Ottawa Senators four times and prompted his move to the Florida Panthers.

But Martin, whose own team was eliminated last week, bore no personal grudge against coach Pat Quinn, who added him to his Team Canada coaching staff three times.

"He's a good hockey man and he's done a good job," Martin said. "It's a situation where you wish him well (facing an unknown future in Toronto)."

Gary Roberts was also reluctant to appear too gleeful at the prospect of beating out the team that didn't ante up to re-sign him and teammate Joe Nieuwendyk.

"I feel for them, being in Toronto (with all the attention)," Roberts said. "I'm sure those guys have been through the grind. But it has been no better for us. We want to end the year off on a good note and if that means playing spoiler a couple of nights, so be it."

OPEN-DOOR POLICY

Defenceman Wade Belak has a hard time believing the Leafs can't get any closer to eighth place, despite the chance of a 40-win, 90-point season.

"I remember when Clarke Wilm and I played in Calgary, we needed just 60 points to (stay close) in the playoffs," Belak said. "It just shows you how tough it is now, with so many 100-point teams. It seems we've been stuck seven points out of a spot about the last three weeks.

"They should probably let in the top 10 in each conference."

That's an idea being discussed by National Hockey League deep thinkers.

"Maybe they can change that rule this year," Belak added with a laugh.

CAT SCRATCH FEVER

The Panthers have a long summer of contractual headaches ahead, starting with getting Roberto Luongo's name on a new long-term deal. Roberts, who will return for his 19th NHL season at age 40, has faith the team will end its five-year playoff drought.

"Joe and I knew going to Florida was a work in progress," Roberts said. "I still enjoy playing. I was out with a knee injury for eight weeks and missed five games with a groin, but I will keep playing as long as I have drive."


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