Maurice settles first-liners

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:17 AM ET

The lengthy debate about who will play on the Maple Leafs' first line apparently is settled.

Jason Blake, Mats Sundin and Nik Antropov will be opening the regular season together on Oct. 3 against the Ottawa Senators.

After the Leafs' loss to the Senators on Monday, coach Paul Maurice observed that he hadn't seen a better trio in exhibition play, however, Kyle Wellwood's surgery and Mark Bell's suspension shaped his decision.

Though Blake-Sundin-Antropov weren't scheduled to be together last night against the Buffalo Sabres as Jiri Tlusty was evaluated, Maurice was asked if the dwindling exhibition games pointed to those three as next week's starters.

"That's fair to say," Maurice replied.

A second line, built around Chad Kilger or Matt Stajan at centre, with Darcy Tucker and either Alexei Ponikarovsky or Alex Steen, is next up.

EIGHT ON DEFENCE

Maurice says there's a chance the Leafs will open the season with eight defencemen, because of the anticipated wear and tear at the position as well as the chance to make further determinations on who should stay long-term.

If the Leafs are serious that the injured Carlo Colaiacovo (knee) will be ready to start, that would allow keeping two of Andy Wozniewski, Staffan Kronwall, Anton Stralman or Jay Harrison, with Wozniewski requiring waivers to be sent down.


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