Testy Bell pleases coach

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

Coach Paul Maurice gave his stamp of approval to Mark Bell's antics late in Tuesday's 5-1 loss to the Senators.

Bell gave Ottawa tough guy and major Leaf antagonist Chris Neil a couple of gloved fists in the last minute of play after he'd pushed around Toronto rookie Jiri Tlusty.

As Bell was imported for just such a scenario, Maurice expected nothing less.

"I liked the end of the game," Maurice said. "Wade Belak (not dressed Tuesday) is there to deal with the heavyweights, but you need the middle-range fighters, too.

"Jiri is a young man who needs to know guys will protect him."

WHAT'S MY LINE?

The Leafs had a full house at practice yesterday, including five forward lines now that Darcy Tucker, Bell and Kyle Wellwood are returning. Bell, Tucker and Chad Kilger worked as a line yesterday at practice and in an intriguing move that links three skill players of various dimensions, Wellwood centred Nik Antropov and Tlusty.

Tlusty was dropped from the young guns unit with Matt Stajan and Alex Steen, who have gained Boyd Devereaux as their wing man.

The odd men out up front appear to be Belak, Bates Battaglia and John Pohl, while the return of Bryan McCabe threatens young Anton Stralman's place in the lineup. Depending on how many injured Leafs are activated, a roster move might have to be made for tomorrow's game.

LOOSE LEAFS

Simon Gamache cleared NHL waivers yesterday and will be rejoining the Marlies...Goaltending legend Johnny Bower turns 84 today...It was 40 years ago today the Leafs played their first game in California ...Mats Sundin is now among the 20 most penalized Leafs of all time, passing No. 21 Bob Pulford last week with 692 minutes. He still has a ways to go to catch leading bad boy Tie Domi (2,265).

QUOTABLE

"We know what we're doing wrong. We just have to get back in the saddle." -- Steen in the wake of the 5-1 loss to Ottawa.


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