Power-play gets familiar new look

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

The only guys missing from yesterday's Happy Days Reunion In Etobicoke seemed to be The Fonz, Potsie and Ralph Malph.

It was the first time since last year that the Maple Leafs' top power-play unit was together again and coach Paul Maurice summoned the five prior to the main practice to jog their memories of the good times before tonight's game in Buffalo.

"We went from sixth in the league (on special teams) to 23rd when we lost those guys last year," Maurice said at Lakeshore Lions Arena.

Okay, so the special-teams drop actually was from second to 16th, but that wasn't Maurice's point.

"You take three of five out (Darcy Tucker, Kyle Wellwood and point man Bryan McCabe) and the chemistry is different," he said.

Of course, Tucker and McCabe weren't exactly lighting it up on the power play or at even strength before they were hurt. There were even snide remarks that the Leafs ran more smoothly without the high-priced help. But a meek effort in Ottawa, coupled with the drop-off in play by the now-demoted Simon Gamache and Anton Stralman, has once more changed attitudes in Leafs Nation.

Tucker, his new knee brace functioning well, and McCabe, with no lingering pain from a groin strain, joined the recently returned Wellwood, plus Mats Sundin and Tomas Kaberle during yesterday's power-play workout.

"Well, as many in the media keep saying, most of my goals have come on the power play," Tucker said of his 33 extra-man strikes from 2005-07.

McCabe ceased to be as effective when the opposition concentrated on shutting off his blasts last year. But he feels he still has a lot to offer.

"When (the shot) is there, I take it. When it's not, it's not," said McCabe, who has two power-play goals this season. "The big thing is having Welly back. He can draw people to him (and create shooting lanes)."

Maurice also praised Wellwood as "the hub" of the unit.

"Mats is right-handed and is used to Kyle or another right-handed shot," the coach said. "They've all not been together in so long that our breakout is disjointed. Kyle changes the way we attack."

But Maurice also hinted that he won't be waiting too long for the supposed top guns to get moving.

"The upside is we don't have much to lose," he said.


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