Green likes Leafs' environment

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:43 AM ET

There were times over the past few months when Travis Green felt like a lame Duck out in Anaheim.

With fans in Lotusland going ga ga over the prospect of supporting a Stanley Cup contender featuring the likes of Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer, Green often found himself little more than an afterthought.

Having suited up for just seven games for the Ducks this season, Green, 36, spent many an evening sitting in the press box wondering where his career was headed.

"I only played in four exhibition games," Green said yesterday. "Then we got off to such a hot start to the season, it was hard to crack the lineup.

"When I did play, when you only play six minutes a night, it's hard. I never had the chance to get into a groove. You start having doubts."

But Green's fortunes changed dramatically yesterday when he was pulled off the ice during the Ducks' noon-time practice in Dallas. At that time he was informed that he had been plucked off waivers by the Maple Leafs, the team he played for in 2001-02 and '02-03.

FLYING TO BUFFALO

After a couple of phone chats with his buddy Darcy Tucker, Green quickly packed his bags and caught a flight to Buffalo, where he is expected to be in the lineup when the Leafs face off against the Buffalo Sabres at the HSBC Arena tonight.

With the injury ravaged Leafs missing forwards Michael Peca, Kyle Wellwood, Nik Antropov, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Darcy Tucker and Aleksander Suglobov, management saw Green as someone who brings a veteran presence to the dressing room, a guy who could help fill Peca's role as an elite penalty killer, and a faceoff specialist who could take some important draws, hopefully relieving some of the faceoff-circle burdens from captain Mats Sundin.

"He can shore up our forward unit, primarily defensively," general manager John Ferguson said. "He was fourth among NHL forwards last season in shorthanded ice time and was 16th in faceoff win percentage."

Green scored 23 goals, added 35 assists and won more than 54% of his draws during his two seasons as a Leaf.

But what Toronto coach Paul Maurice remembers most is the grit Green exhibited in the 2002 Eastern final between Green's Leafs and Maurice's Carolina Hurricanes.

"He was tough to play against," Maurice said. "Some guys look like the best part of their day is playing and he brings that enthusiasm to the room."

Green, who had just one goal and one assist as a Duck, can't wait to once again pull on that blue-and-white jersey with his familiar No. 39 on the back.

"I'm excited," he said last night from the plane he was boarding for Buffalo. "Toronto was always a special place for me and I'll do whatever it takes to help reach the playoffs.

NO SECRET

"It's no secret Darcy and I are close, and we both have some great memories of that 2002 playoff run, although it was bittersweet because we didn't get further.

"I was a battler there, and that hasn't changed. I feel that is my style."

To make room for Green on the roster, the Leafs assigned forward Eric Westrum to the AHL Marlies.


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