Defensive game returning

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:33 AM ET

On Sunday, general manager John Ferguson said he had noticed a trend around the NHL to more defensive-oriented hockey and coach Paul Maurice added his two cents yesterday.

If true, it's not a promising development for the Leafs, who have just five goals in the past four games and have lost four in a row.

"There's an adjustment in the league to be honest with you right now," Maurice said. "A lot more teams are tightening up, sitting back. There's a lot more (obstruction-type play) allowed than three or four weeks ago. It doesn't mean we can't continue to play well or excel in it."

It was only two weeks ago that many Leafs and Buffalo Sabres went ballistic in a game where anything remotely close to a foul was being called.

Maurice says the teaching aspect of his job is just beginning.

"We're learning how to change our game, how to make adjustments as you go. Two months gone by still falls into a lot of system work.

"Things in our game are hurting us more than they did before. They're not exactly brand new. I don't think we're playing poorly, but we're not winning. We did a better job Saturday in Montreal than we did in Atlanta, but we're still getting burned on short issues and some mild chances."

Speed demon

Maurice has been wary of team skills competitions since he saw goaltender Trevor Kidd get hurt many years ago and a minor casualty in Sunday's Leafs event was winger Alex Suglobov. He aggravated a back injury during his lap of the fastest skater segment and missed practice yesterday.

"He's had it a few days and it sort of flared up during that blistering skate-around," said Maurice, teasing the Russian about finishing last with a time of 16.435 seconds. "We're just keeping him out (as a precaution)."

Loose Leafs

Ex-Leaf Derek King paid a visit to the team yesterday. He was warmly greeted by Mats Sundin. King and Sundin are the only Leafs to score penalty-shot goals at home in the past 22 years ... Defencemen Tomas Kaberle and Bryan McCabe are still averaging between 28 and 29 minutes a game.


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