Wellwood wingin' it

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

At first it stung.

Now it's fun.

Life on the wing certainly has been a roller-coaster ride for Kyle Wellwood.

During a conversation with incoming coach Paul Maurice during the summer, Wellwood, a career centreman, was asked how he would feel about shifting to the flank.

"I told him I wasn't excited about it," Wellwood recalled yesterday.

"But right now I am pretty excited."

So what changed?

For one thing, the opportunity came up to play on a line with the extremely skilled Mats Sundin.

While Maurice maintains Sundin will play with a number of wingers because of the captain's increased ice time this season, the chemistry exhibited between the veteran Swede and the shifty Wellwood on the power play has not escaped the watchful eye of the observant Leafs bench boss.

Such on-ice cohesiveness, Maurice admits, could play a role in the two lining up together for a regular shift, just as they did during practice yesterday at Lakeshore Lions Arena.

" I liked what I saw in practice and in (the 5-1 pre-season victory over Montreal Friday)," said Maurice of the Sundin-Wellwood duo.

Should it play out that way, Wellwood welcomes the challenge.

"If playing with Mats on the power play continues to be the strategy, then it makes things easier if I can stay on his line (5-on-5) because it doesn't mess up the other lines all the time," he said.

Wellwood admitted never having played wing before.

"The biggest difference is there is not as much skating," he said. "You don't follow the puck around, you just stay on your side. You just trust your centreman to be where he should be.

"I thought it would be tough. But with Mats it's kind of easy because you know he's going to be in the right place and he'll also be the defensive guy. He's one in the best in the league at that."

Of course, at 5-foot-10, Wellwood is not really built to do a lot of grunt work in the corners, say like a Wendel Clark.

"That will be the tough thing," Wellwood said.

"Hopefully I won't be required to do that too much. Hopefully I'll just be doing the chip plays to Mats."


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