Steen not in doghouse

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:19 AM ET

Alex Steen was a top 10 rookie scorer for the Maple Leafs last season, but he's probably happy the National Hockey League doesn't have a category for sophomores.

With just one goal in 25 games, he was falling off the radar, but coach Paul Maurice is attempting to revive him with a shift to centre, his natural position.

Steen will be on the fourth line tonight, likely between Chad Kilger and John Pohl, as the Leafs complete consecutive home games against the Boston Bruins. Steen was unsure if his trouble is rooted in adjusting to Maurice, where most Leafs have integrated quite nicely. Last year, Steen had 18 goals and 45 points

"When you change systems there are always adjustments," Steen said. "But it's nothing that I've been thinking about that way that has been wrong. It's a situation that I have to work out of and I've been working hard to do that."

Maurice, who benched the Canadian-born son of Swedish star Thomas Steen for the third period of Saturday's 3-1 loss to Boston, says he's not putting the kid in the doghouse. He said seeing Steen in his natural position would provide a more fair appraisal after other youngsters such as Kyle Wellwood, Pohl and a couple of defencemen exceeded expectations.

Management hoped Steen would take another step forward this year, perhaps as Mats Sundin's first-line winger or become a bigger part of the power play. But Darcy Tucker bit heavily into Steen's time with the man advantage and Maurice utilized him in a more defensive role than predecessor Pat Quinn.

"It's nice for people to have high expectations, but I'm concentrating on my own expectations (which have) nothing to do with points," Steen said. "I'm not meeting them and that's disappointing. If I don't score, that's fine. What's important is I help this team the way the coach wants me to help.

"That's frustrating when you set up personal goals for yourself and you're not getting there. I have to turn this around for sure."

Sundin is set to play with Wellwood and Alexei Ponikarovsky tonight after several line experiments on Saturday following almost three weeks off with an elbow injury. Sundin has no worries that Steen won't bounce back.

"He kills penalties and does a lot of things that don't show up on the scoresheet," Sundin said.


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