Boyd a boon on Leafs PK

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:37 AM ET

Winger Boyd Devereaux is fighting a two-front war this month, battling to preserve the Maple Leafs' playoff dream and saving his own job.

With a bulging cast of 15 healthy forwards for the first time since the lockout, coach Paul Maurice makes three scratches a night.

For the past few games, that pool consists of Chad Kilger, John Pohl, Bates Battaglia and Wade Belak. But Devereaux, benched nine times last season, has played in all 18 games he has been fit for.

And if he replicates nights like Saturday, when his group of checkers spearheaded a 3-0 win over the Ottawa Senators, he's staying out.

Defencemen Bryan McCabe, Tomas Kaberle and goalie Vesa Toskala took the lion's share of credit for the upset of the league leaders, but the work of Devereaux and the penalty-killing crew set the table.

That special teams' facet had been one of the few proper functioning parts in November, having killed 25 of 28 chances heading into tomorrow's home game against Boston.

"The coaches just hammered it into us," Devereaux said after the Ottawa game. "We worked on it a lot in practice (the unit often preceded the main body of Leafs on to the ice) and we had a lot of video work done, too.

"Now we're reading off of each other a lot better. It's a chemistry thing, a trust thing where you know where the other guy is going to be.

"But the biggest part of what's happened lately is that we're taking fewer penalties."

With only four skaters during a kill, the roles can actually be better defined, unlike the Leafs' woes switching off their forwards and defence in 5-on-5 own-zone coverage.

Put big defencemen such as Hal Gill, McCabe and Andy Wozniewski in tandem with the speed of Devereaux, Alex Steen, Matt Stajan and the reach of Nik Antropov and Mats Sundin, and it makes an effective group.

"You've got to do what you do best," Devereaux said of his suitability to the role and his regular shift with centre Stajan and right winger Steen.

"Play to your strengths and the PK's one of mine."

The Seaforth native, who turns 30 in the new year, is one of two Leafs with a Stanley Cup ring, the other being injured defenceman Pavel Kubina.

Devereaux played 21 games and had six points for the Detroit Red Wings in 2002, when they beat Maurice's Carolina Hurricanes in the Cup final.

But when drawing on that memory on a team that's life and death to make the playoffs, he's careful not to sound condescending. He doesn't run around quoting Steve Yzerman or Scott Bowman or carry old octopi in his pocket for good luck.

"Guys will ask me what winning it was like and you just try and add the experience to what we're trying to do here. Everyone was on the same page with that team that year and it was a confidence you could feel on and off the ice."

Devereaux's Cup ring is rarely displayed in public.

"Mostly because it's a beast to wear," Devereaux laughed, describing the diamond encrusted bauble.

"There's bling, but that's bling-bling. I get it out and look at it now and then, but only wear it on really special occasions."


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