Focus on Habs, not deadline

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:35 AM ET

MONTREAL -- Paul Maurice is trying to maintain calm in the ranks of the Maple Leafs on the eve of the NHL trade deadline, but the Canadiens didn't help yesterday.

Sturdy defenceman Craig Rivet's departure to San Jose for a deal that includes Josh Gorges and the Sharks' first-round pick will put a buzz in the Bell Centre for tonight's game. With three divisional games this week, tonight against the Habs and two versus the injury-weakened Buffalo Sabres, the Leafs coach needs his charges to keep the focus on the ice and not on the telephone or television.

"I don't think the deadline is affecting us," Maurice insisted after an optional practice. "I've been on (Carolina Hurricanes) teams where you knew there would be changes, you could feel it in the room.

"But on our team, I think players know they've made a good impression."

Still, the butterflies should be fluttering on the bench tonight for the usual reasons, a sold-out Bell Centre, a high concentration of Leafs fans and a one-point gap between the clubs for playoff positioning. This is the 751st meeting of the teams -- regular season and playoffs -- and the Habs would rather forget No. 750, a lacklustre 4-1 loss at the Air Canada Centre on Jan. 27.

Defenceman Sheldon Souray was quite vocal about the letdown that evening, with a large complement of Montreal sweaters in the stands.

"You shouldn't have to add one piece of fuel to the fire when we play Toronto," Souray said. "Every time we play them, they get emotionally ready. They pick their game up another gear or two and we don't match it. They're missing three good guys, but don't use any excuses."

Montreal hopes to have winger Alex Kovalev back tonight after seven games off with a sore elbow.


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