Senators cool off Leafs

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:06 AM ET

HALIFAX -- A few Maple Leafs made the most of a three games in three nights marathon, but for another group, the contest to fill a National Hockey League uniform is through.

The Leafs will drop around 10 players in the next 48 hours, but almost all made coach Paul Maurice's pruning job a tough one until the end. Another prospect-filled lineup almost capped a weekend sweep here last evening, until the Ottawa Senators jumped on a series of penalties for a 3-2 win. Brendan Bell became the latest casualty on defence, the fifth Leafs' defenceman to be hurt since camp started, taken out of last night's game for precautions after getting slashed in the leg.

"We had three defencemen play three in three and five that were dead (by the end of last night)," Maurice said. "The first three that went down (Tomas Kaberle, Pavel Kubina, Carlo Colaiacovo), we're hopeful of getting back next week, to take the ice away from the last three who were hurt."

But the wild weekend (two wins over Montreal) was a godsend for defenders such as Andy Wozniewski and Jay Harrison, who found themselves utilized in even strength and power-play situations. Wozniewski's assist last night on Jeff O'Neill's opening goal gave him five points and a tie with Alex Suglobov for the team lead.

"We're turning him into an offensive defenceman and using him up front next week," Maurice joshed. "Good for him. There's a guy who did everything he could this summer to be ready. He's in outstanding shape. To be that big and move that fast for three straight nights, two of them in a five D rotation ... I think he looks comfortable, which is the key."

Toronto has three games remaining, needing one victory to equal last year's pre-season total.

"I'm definitely giving them a good look," Wozniewski said."It's exciting to get points. I'm definitely getting my shots on net.

"You don't like to see anyone go down because we're all friends here. But those are the breaks. It kind of looks like last year around here with all the defencemen going down."

Harrison led the Leafs' defence with four shots on goal, but was just as glad to be tested against the likes of Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley last night.

"That's why we all train so hard in the summer, running up the hills and all that, for this kind of opportunity," Harrison said.

Maurice and general manager John Ferguson received yet another strong game in goal, with Jean-Sebastien Aubin stopping 31 shots. Chris Kelly, Heatley and Spezza all struck on the power play, the latter two goals on 5-on-3s. Mikael Tellqvist's earlier heroics adds fuel to speculation the Leafs will keep three goalie to start the season and see if they can deal one of the backups.

John Pohl had the other Leafs goal in the first period. For the past two nights, 11 defencemen with little or no Leafs experience have bent but not broken. But some will be chopped in an effort to get under 30 for the final three games and 23 for opening night.

The Leafs' attempt for four consecutive pre-season wins and three in three nights came unglued when an Ottawa rally put three power-play goals past the under-manned defence and through goaltender Jean-Sebastien Aubin.


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