Harrison ready for coach's call

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

Paul Maurice has a rather simple message for defenceman Jay Harrison tonight.

"This is not meant to be disrespectful to Jay, because he understands this," the Maple Leafs coach said after practice yesterday at Lakeshore Lions Arena. "He is not to be noticed. Occasionally step into somebody with a good clean hit, make the good outlet pass, the good pokecheck. Those are the things in his game. He is not out there to be a flashy player."

Those thoughts are fine with the 23-year-old Harrison, who will make his season debut against the Florida Panthers at the Air Canada Centre barring a complete change of heart by Maurice. Harrison registered just an assist in eight games with the Leafs in 2005-06 but was plus-five and certainly was not out of place.

Having had that experience and being with the Leafs in the early stages this season instead of a demotion to the AHL's Toronto Marlies are benefits for Harrison, who has hit 100 penalty minutes in each of his past three seasons with the Leafs' top minor-league affiliate.

"I think I will be more comfortable knowing that I have been in the situation before," the 6-foot-4, 211-pound Harrison said. "I've had the pressures and I did fairly well last year. I'm doing my best to blend in and I definitely feel more comfortable in the room. That's an intangible that a lot of people often don't think about."

With Andy Wozniewski the most recent Leafs defenceman to go down with an injury -- after suffering an injured shoulder against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night -- the insertion of Harrison into the lineup is one option for Maurice. Another would be to take Wade Belak and put him on the blue line, and have Alexander Suglobov go back in, but Maurice likes the bruising Belak at forward. Belak practised as a forward yesterday.

"I think he has been a factor,"Maurice said. "I have no problem with him on the blue line, but I just think the game is more suited to him being a presence up front."

The opportunity for Harrison could be an extended one. Maurice said there was no positive news on Wozniewski and added the latter is not day to day. As well, Carlo Colaiacovo, Staffan Kronwall and Brendan Bell are not close to returning from their various woes.

Of the six young defencemen who headed to training camp last month to compete for a couple of jobs, only Ian White and Harrison are standing. It's probable Harrison would skate with Pavel Kubina, Wozniewski's partner.

"You want to get in with any chance you get, because the opportunities are few and far between,"Harrison said. "But you don't wish injuries on anyone and you don't take joy or pride in someone's misfortune, especially when it is your friends. You just can't underestimate getting a chance."


Videos

Photos