Staying the course

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:34 AM ET

Bates Battaglia is going to approach games this weekend like any other in the pre-season.

The same goes for Andy Wozniewski. And if the winger and defenceman play as they have so far, they're bound to be in the Maple Leafs opening-night lineup.

Considered a long shot a few weeks ago even with his NHL background, Battaglia has had a solid camp and is in the good books of coach Paul Maurice.

"He has to continue what he is doing and he is on track to do it," said Maurice, who coached Battaglia with the Carolina Hurricanes and last season with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. "He still has some more hurdles. He has to be comfortable on the right side, and he has to be able to come off the bench."

Wozniewski has been the offensive surprise of the pre-season, registering five points in six games. It appears Wozniewski and Ian White, who is being paired with Hal Gill, will make the club. Jay Harrison, who will not play in Detroit tonight, has an outside shot, as does Brad Brown.

Battaglia has a goal and two assists in four games. It's possible Battaglia, Alexander Suglobov and John Pohl will get the jump on veterans Jeff O'Neill and Wade Belak for forward spots.

CONSISTENT

"I have been playing consistent and it is all I can do," Battaglia said.

"Knowing what (Maurice) wants from me since I have played for him has been an advantage. But I have no idea what is going to happen, just take it one day at a time."

Maurice reiterated after practice at Lakeshore Lions Arena yesterday that O'Neill does not have a lock on a job.

Harrison, who has played in five pre-season matches and has two assists, might be kept around as the seventh defenceman but won't get bent out of shape if he is cut.

"It's not like the fight for ice time or jobs is going to stop after these two games," Harrison said. "There can be a positive element of competition among the young guys all year regardless of who the early runners are or who falls behind. Things happen. It's about conditioning yourself into a mindset that you are in a constant competition."

Harrison quickly forgot a tough night in the first pre-season game against the Buffalo Sabres.

"I have been happy with the way things have gone," Harrison said. "I have worked my tail off and have tried to do my best to offer what I can to the hockey club. Hopefully it is what they are looking for."


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