Stamina spurs Leafs

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:47 AM ET

Leafs coach Paul Maurice hopes it wasn't his imagination on Wednesday night when his team appeared to strengthen in the second and third periods of back-to-back games.

If so, it's an encouraging sign that the all-star break and an ambitious training camp fitness program have made a difference.

"You'd like to think so, but when you win, everything looks good," the coach said. "I felt we did get better as the game went on and it's critical to win back to back in this stretch of the schedule."

Strength and conditioning coach Matt Nichol, who accompanied the team to Carolina and New York, also was pleased.

"The idea is not just to have (fuel) for the long road trips but at the end of the season," Nichol said. "I can't get too excited, because you don't win or lose games specifically because of the strength coach.

"But the whole idea is the work you put into training camp and the hard practises Paul runs are supposed to pay off as you get closer to the playoffs. Hopefully, we keep stringing together back-to-back wins on road trips and carry it into playoffs."

LUCKY PONY

Alexei Ponikarovsky continues to be the Leafs lucky charm on the scoresheet. With Wednesday's goal in New York, the team is 10-0-2 when he scores and a combined 24-2-3 since the lockout.

"You guys keep bringing it up, but it's just a coincidence, nothing more," Ponikarovsky said. "I like to battle for the team so we can get a win and it's always nice to score."

Ponikarovsky's place on the first line with Mats Sundin and Nik Antropov doesn't hurt his chances to score after working his way up from the fourth line.

LOOSE LEAFS

Darcy Tucker will have his cracked foot re-examined in a week general manager John Ferguson said yesterday. Winger Boyd Devereaux is also day to day, with his leg injury possibly related to a similar mishap last year.


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