Training camp's top three topics

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:01 AM ET

Here are three topics which are sure to be ongoing sources of debate for Leafs fans, players and coaches in the pre-season:

BLUELINE BLUES

Six buddies vying for three jobs on defence.

Talk about testing one's friendships.

"It's going to be the fiercest battle at camp and the most fun, for sure," said Brendan Bell, one of the candidates.

Bell, Carlo Colaiacovo, Andy Wozniewski, Staffan Kronwall, Ian White and Jay Harrison all were impressive to varying degrees during their individual stints with the Leafs last season.

Now they find themselves scratching and clawing to earn the No. 5 through 7 jobs on the blue line behind Bryan McCabe, Tomas Kaberle, Pavel Kubina and Hal Gill.

"The best part is, all six of us are pretty close," Bell said."We get along real well, we have a lot of fun in the room, but we've never been in a situation like this.

"There are jobs open, and they are anyone's to win."

Keep in mind that White and Kronwall do not need to clear waivers before being sent down to the Marlies. If neither distinguishes himself from the pack during camp, they could become the front-runners for demotion because management would not have to fear the prospect of watching another team scoop them up.

NET GAINS?

General manager John Ferguson pulls no punches when discussing the team's woes between the pipes last season.

"We need to be better in goal. It's that simple," Ferguson said yesterday.

Ed Belfour is in Florida, leaving the No. 1 job to 2004 rookie of the year Andrew Raycroft. But the former Boston Bruin is coming off a sub-par season and, should he falter, Mikael Tellqvist and Jean-Sebastien Aubin, both on one-way contracts, are waiting in the wings.

Ideally Ferguson would like to carry only two goalies.

"Yeah, they want (Raycroft) to play," said Aubin, whose fine overall performance for the Leafs down the stretch turned many a head.

"But they also have a lot of goalies to look at. It should be interesting. We have to make it a (difficult) decision for them."

WHO PLAYS WITH MATS?

Scarborough's Anson Carter signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets yesterday, so remove another potential candidate to play alongside captain Mats Sundin.

The Leafs could not find a way to squeeze Carter's asking price under the cap, meaning Sundin's wingers likely will come from within the organization.

Ferguson is quick to point out that Sundin's most productive stint last season came on a unit with Alexei Ponikarovsky and Nik Antropov. He also enjoyed some on-ice chemistry with then-rookie Alex Steen.

But as far as Maurice is concerned, there are no preconceived notions regarding lines heading into camp.

"We'll see how things play out," Maurice said. "That's what camp is for."


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