Lots of Leaf undecideds

Leafs' Nathan Perrott and Sens' Danny Bois duke it out during second period pre-season action on...

Leafs' Nathan Perrott and Sens' Danny Bois duke it out during second period pre-season action on Monday. (Sun Media/Alex Urosevic)

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

Rather than resembling a finely tuned machine at this stage of training camp, the Maple Leafs have the rudimentary look of a Grade 9 shop project.

Coach Paul Maurice does not yet have the nuts and bolts in place, while old and new parts are sticking. But at least there are more pieces to work with this season and Maurice is confident the finished project will get high marks.

He had virtually the whole lineup in a state of flux last night and still got 38 shots on the Ottawa Senators before losing 4-3 in overtime.

Toronto's exhibition record is now 2-1-2, every decision by a goal.

"Once you get the (roster) straightened away, the roles will fall into place," Maurice said. "The first three games we were a little plodding, but with a day's rest a lot of players were getting better."

Maurice moved Jason Blake to right wing with centre Mats Sundin on the first line to make room for Alexei Ponikarovsky, who replaced Alex Steen there in the second period. Steen dropped back to join Matt Stajan, his centre much of last year, while 2006's first round pick Jiri Tlusty had auditioned on right wing.

But it was John Pohl who did everything at the Air Canada Centre last night except flood the ice and sell popcorn in the reds.

He centred, played wing on the power play and started a two-goal comeback with a goal that made him the Leafs' exhibition points leader with four.

"The coach just reminded us we used 31 players last year and there are about 29 of us left," Pohl said. "With trades and injuries, you have to be ready (to be versatile)."

Still undecided about a second-line centre -- Maurice won't dismiss Chad Kilger as a legit candidate for the injured Kyle Wellwood -- the coach expects winger Boyd Devereaux back shortly to further crowd the third-line and fourth-line picture. He conceded Stajan and Steen have a good working relationship, but despite assisting on Sundin's goal, Steen was gnashing his teeth at two missed breakaways on Martin Gerber that would have increased his profile.

Maurice had new defensive pairings last night that saw Ian White and Hal Gill split up, with White joining Bryan McCabe for a double dose of rushing power. Andy Wozniewski made a decent case to stick, but with Gill in the box in overtime, McCabe and Pavel Kubina looked lost in allowing Jason Spezza to sweep around and set up Patrick Eaves for the winner.

It was Blake's first game at the ACC and Raycroft's first appearance since his Game 82 meltdown against Montreal last year.

"We're all coming out of a game like that a lot better than going in," said Raycroft, who faced 32 shots.

Maurice was asked if he anticipated a rough reception for his goalie.

"I thought I'd see a few signs congratulating him on tying the franchise record for wins," Maurice said of the goalie's feast-and-famine season.

The Leafs completed a two-goal comeback at 11:10 of the third, when Stajan's centring pass struck Ponikarovsky's skate. Cristoph Schubert beat Raycroft twice and Dany Heatley made it a 3-1 game.

Sundin, kept off the scoreboard in the final 12 games of the regular season and one exhibition, got loose for a goal at 1:21.

Simon (don't call me Simone) Gamache, picked up his second assist and continues to throw his weight around in a determined effort to try and land a spot. But the 5-foot-9 forward still has some taller and tougher competition to get by, with a dwindling number of exhibition games to showcase himself.

The Leafs meet Ottawa again next Wednesday to open the regular season.

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THE GOOD

- Mats Sundin and Jason Blake created a buzz on offence, scoring once.

- Fourth-line candidates Kris Newbury, Ben Ondrus, Nathan Perrott and Bates Battaglia didn't get goofy running Chris Neil and the Sens. Perrott had the edge on Danny Bois in a second-period fight.

- Led by Hal Gill, the Leafs held off a long 4-on-3 and a 5-on-3 among seven kills overall.

THE BAD

- Goalie Andrew Raycroft was inconsistent.

- Alex Steen had some defensive struggles and eventually was moved off of the first line in exchange for Alexei Ponikaroivsky. Steen missed a partial breakaway and a clear-cut chance in the third.

- John Pohl and Sundin lost consecutive draws that led to Ottawa goals.


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