Maurice pleads for calm

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:35 AM ET

Paul Maurice offered some much-needed advice yesterday to a city prepared to write off a hockey season that hasn't even officially started yet.

"Take a long deep breath, go home, have a tea, take another deep breath," the Maple Leafs coach said.

In other words, remove the noose from your neck and understand that Wednesday's 7-2 humiliation at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres was only a pre-season game.

Maurice's comments came in response to a reporter's observation that opposing forwards at times have been wheeling around in the Leafs defensive zone untouched as if they were performing in a matinee performance of Ice Capades.

But exhibition games or not, the video doesn't lie.

And what it shows is that far too often, players such as Ottawa's Jason Spezza and Buffalo's Derek Roy have toyed with the Leafs defence instead of being dumped on their butts.

"You can't hit what you can't catch," Maurice said, referring to his players' recent penchant of not moving their feet.

EVERYONE INVOLVED

The culprits Wednesday night ranged from veterans such as Bryan McCabe to those clamouring for a roster spot such as Staffan Kronwall and Anton Stralman.

With the Leafs finishing off the pre-season with a home-and-home set against the Detroit Red Wings that kicks off tonight at the Air Canada Centre, Kronwall and Stralman find themselves trailing Andy Wozniewski in the race to snap up a spot on the blue line.

Wozniewski, who did not play in the thrashing delivered by the Sabres, has been one of the few bright spots on the Leafs defence in the preseason, recording two points in three games and bringing a more physical presence to the Toronto blue line.

Remember that Wozniewski made the Leafs in each of the two previous seasons before injuries shut him down.

"I feel I've had a really good camp," he said. "I'm excited to get the chance."

Maurice said cuts likely would not be made until after the games against Detroit.


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