Finding himself playing back-to-back games after a three-week absence from the Maple Leafs lineup, defenceman Tomas Kaberle was grateful for the opportunity to catch up on a few things yesterday.
Such as catching his breath.
Kaberle welcomed the news that coach Paul Maurice gave his team the day off. It gave the Czech blue-liner the chance to give his fatigued body some time to recharge its batteries.
"Two games in two nights did leave me a little tired," said Kaberle, who returned to the lineup Friday after suffering a concussion March 2 against the New Jersey Devils. "But I'll be fine.
"We just have to make sure about ourselves the rest of the way in. We can't be concerned with what other teams are doing. We still have games with the Rangers, Islanders, Carolina and Montreal, so that's what we have to concentrate on."
Matt Stajan appeared to take a puck in the face during the Leafs 4-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres Saturday.
Fortunately, his visor saved him.
"Thank God I had it on," he said. "That's four times in three years it has happened to me."
RACE TO THE FINISH
Carolina Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford is not surprised at the logjam of teams dueling for playoff spots in the east.
"With the new (post-lockout) system it is easier for teams to improve," Rutherford said yesterday. "It brings more parity to the league and, in many instances, closer playoff races.
"Right now, for teams like ours who are fighting for a spot, you have to take each remaining game one at a time. It's no use looking back. You just have to keep on looking ahead."
Maurice had high praise for youngsters Stajan and Carlo Colaiacovo.
"From the beginning of the year, Matt Stajan has gone from a skill guy who makes plays to a guy who grinds away and is very tough to play against," Maurice said.
As for Colaiacovo, Maurice said: "He has exceeded our expectations, based on his age."