Leafs sick of Senators

Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Bryan McCabe ties up Mike Peca during yesterday's workout as the...

Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Bryan McCabe ties up Mike Peca during yesterday's workout as the team prepares for tonight's home game against the Ottawa Senators. (Toronto Sun/Craig Robertson)

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 1:22 PM ET

The Maple Leafs are set to play the Ottawa Senators for the fourth time in three weeks and seventh time in barely a month, a big reason they want the National Hockey League to scrap its new 'rivalry friendly' format.

And news that commissioner Gary Bettman is considering such a change to the schedule next year was welcomed around the Toronto dressing room yesterday.

"There has to be a better way to do it," centre Michael Peca said as the Leafs prepared for another home and home, starting tonight at the Air Canada Centre. "Rivalries are fine, but the players can get sick and tired of seeing the same team eight times. Sometimes the build up is the best thing, but then the game itself fizzles out."

'A JOKE'

By the time the Leafs get through at Scotiabank Place on Thursday, they'll have seen the Sens seven times, including exhibitions, with four more to go.

"At least space them out," Wade Belak urged. "It's a joke. The season seems like eight months, so play one a month. It's just boring after awhile."

Keep in mind the Leafs won the previous meeting with the Sens 6-0, and they hav owned them in the playoffs. If the clubs have a post-season meeting again and it goes the distance, the clubs will have clashed 18 times in all.

Bettman and the league committed to a new threeyear schedule cycle after the lockout, designed to enhance inter-divisional rivalries with eight-game series, put other conference teams on a fourgame plan and play non-conference opponents home and away once every three years.

That idea has been under criticism almost from its inception, either from players mixed at a steady diet of four division teams or fans robbed of seeing young stars such as Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin.

"We're going to look at it after the season and see what changes make sense," Bettman told a reporter on the weekend after most thought the league would let the plan run its course.

"Everybody should be playing each other if it can be worked out," Leafs goaltender Andrew Raycroft said. "For us not to play Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver --and not even play Detroit or Chicago from the Original Six -- that's not right." Richard Peddie, the president and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, could not be reached for comment yesterday, but is on record as favouring more games that make "geographical sense" such as Toronto-Detroit, where the Leafs will be headed this season along with Central Division stops in Chicago, St. Louis, Nashville and Columbus.

One NHL general manager contacted last month said it could be as subtle a switch as dropping inter-division games down to seven. Under that system, a team such as the Leafs would pick up five extra dates in their 82-game schedule, using three to go out West and two for more Original Six games.

"The biggest thing is us not going out West where we're a big draw," Belak said.

"That's brutal."


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