Steen, Stajan are up to speed

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:40 AM ET

OSHAWA -- When Paul Maurice was dividing his roster for yesterday's Blue-White game, he figured he had come up with a fair split.

So, what went wrong?

Alex Steen and Matt Stajan, that's what.

"When I came up with the teams a week ago, I thought they were even," Maurice said after Team Blue easily beat Team White 5-1 yesterday. "One of the big reasons they weren't? Steen and Stajan."

Indeed, the two young forwards turned in dominant performances, each collecting a pair of points while playing on a line with Simon Gamache, who toiled in the Swiss elite league a year ago.

It was a sight that brought a smile to Maurice's face.

Several days ago, the Maple Leafs coach called out some of his younger players, claiming they needed to step up and take some of the heat off veterans such as Mats Sundin and Darcy Tucker.

He specifically singled out Steen, saying the talented forward needed to use his speed more consistently.

It was a message that Steen has taken to heart.

"Both Alex and Matt worked really hard during the off-season," Maurice said. "I mean, Alex looked faster out there than he did at any time last year."

General manager John Ferguson said both players have improved their skaing.

"Not only are they visibly quicker, our testing has shown that they, in fact, are quicker," Ferguson said.

Often having been regular linemates the past few seasons, Steen and Stajan would like to occupy larger roles with the Leafs in 2007-08.

"I think we've both worked on the same things, like trying to keep our feet constantly moving," Stajan said. "In my case, hopefully I can show more this year than last year."

Both have done exactly that, although keep in mind that camp is less than a week old.

"We have chemistry together because we've played a lot in the past," Steen said. "That always helps."


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