O'Neill frustrated but not bitter

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

There were no child-like hissy fits, no demands for a one-way ticket out of town.

Nevertheless, Jeff O'Neill's frustration continues to boil. Call it taking one for the team.

O'Neill, understandably, is bristling at his situation with the Maple Leafs. At the same time, he does not want to be a distraction that might leave his teammates losing focus of the real goal -- landing a playoff spot.

"I'm not going to pull a Sergei Samsonov and say the world is coming down on me," O'Neill said yesterday.

Samsonov, an overpaid bust with the Montreal Canadiens this season, has whined about a lack of ice time and would rather play elsewhere.

O'Neill is not saying that. At least not publicly.

But he makes no secret he is not happy with his decreased role with the Leafs, having been a healthy scratch for the past couple of games.

HUGE TILT

O'Neill pined for the chance to return to the lineup last night for the Leafs' huge tilt with the Carolina Hurricanes, his former team.

The fact that he wasn't, O'Neill said, is an indication of how much his stock may have fallen.

"Obviously I'm very disappointed," he said. "It lets you know where you stand when you can't crack the lineup at this point in the season.

"I think it's a disappointing situation. I think with the (diminishing) minutes I've played, I've been a pretty solid contributor. (Sitting out) is not where I want to be.

"It's obvious I'm not happy but (coach Paul Maurice) decided to go with other guys. Let's just leave it at that."

Maurice and O'Neill have not always seen eye to eye dating back to their days with the Hurricanes, yet the coach insists he holds no grudges toward the hard-shooting winger. He claimed the move has more to do with getting high-energy John Pohl back into the lineup.

Whatever the case, O'Neill's fall from grace coincides with a scoring drought that has featured just one goal in his past 16 games.


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