The circus skips town

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

In such strange times, Darcy Tucker likes to think of the climactic scene from the movie The Shawshank Redemption.

"The guy (Tim Robbins) crawled through a tunnel of s--- and controversy to be free," the Maple Leafs' winger said. "Maybe this is the adversity we have to go through."

The Leafs aren't exactly on death row for the NHL playoffs, reaching the quarter pole of the schedule tonight in Boston in sixth place in the conference. But they can't seem to reach daylight, either, frittering away points at home, while making news for all the wrong reasons in a city that has fed off their woe for 40 years.

FOCUS ON GAME

Coach Paul Maurice was once again fielding many non-hockey questions the past few days, about Tucker, Jason Blake, Sean Avery and lost patience at one point when persistent Jiri Tlusty inquiries took the focus off of tonight's game.

"The questions I'm getting this year are quite a bit different than the questions I got last year," Maurice told The Canadian Press. "Just in terms of the edge that seems to be with them. I look down at the standings and we're sitting in sixth -- I know we've played more games than some teams -- but we're a hockey club that most experts picked to be somewhere around 12th. And yet, what do we talk about?"

Tlusty's clumsy attempt at emulating Ron Jeremy capped a five-day frenzy. It began with a shutout win in Buffalo, a home shootout loss to the Rangers, fines and lectures from the league when Tucker and Avery went overboard in that game, a knee injury to Pavel Kubina and then an overtime loss to Montreal on another glaring Bryan McCabe error.

"The Bermuda Triangle," Tucker said of the Leafs of late.

"You could probably write a movie on this year already and it's only November, with all the topics and headlines," Wade Belak said.

"I think this team should be located in L.A. with the stars, with the gossip magazines. I guess it's part of playing in Toronto. I think it's just getting worse every year I've been here."

The Leafs play the Bruins for the first time this season, hoping the recent dip in fortunes of their division rivals lingers one more day. The last time Toronto visited, it lit up the B's 10-2, the most goals by one NHL team in a game last season.

The lines remained the same as in the Montreal game at practice yesterday, meaning winger Chad Kilger is likely to be benched again on the fourth line in favour of Bates Battaglia, while it's expected Vesa Toskala has recovered sufficiently from a flu bug to replace Andrew Raycroft.


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