Poni fine with being juggled

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:10 AM ET

When Jason Blake's arrival bumped him off Toronto's first line, Alexei Ponikarovsky wondered where he'd land.

Much of his consecutive 21-goal seasons was based on being Mats Sundin's left winger on a line with Nik Antropov.

COMFORT LEVEL

Ponikarovsky had just reached a comfort level with the Leafs after a five-year battle, working his way up from minor-league banishment in St. John's, then proving himself to former coach Pat Quinn as a diligent fourth-liner.

But he didn't balk in his new role with Alex Steen and Matt Stajan, which proved to have better early season chemistry than the other secondary trio of Chad Kilger, Darcy Tucker and John Pohl, all pointless after three games.

And when coach Paul Maurice sensed the scoreless Blake was wearing down after two games against Ottawa and a period and a half against Montreal, he plugged Ponikarovsky back in.

With two goals on Sundin feeds in the eventual 4-3 win over the Habs, Ponikarovsky has given Maurice plenty of options for future deployment of forwards.

"I had to realize it wasn't the end of my career (to lose the Sundin gig)," Ponikarovsky said. "I was actually very comfortable with Matt and Alex. They are two young and hungry players and that was (rubbing off) on me.

"But Mats sees the ice so well. If you're at the right place at the right time for him, you'll get your scoring chances."

Blake shrugged off the change of assignments and his blank slate after three games. He was a 40-goal man on Long Island last year, but joked that his wife was the first to mention he went the first five games without clicking.

"We have four good lines and if it's not working, it's not working," he said. "I won't push the panic button. We'll see what happens Tuesday (against Carolina)."


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