Putting on a brave face

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:07 AM ET

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Mats Sundin is keeping the faith.

Though the Maple Leafs captain has as much right and reason to question what the heck is going on in the dressing room and the ice after last night's 5-1 loss to Phoenix, he can't bring himself to say it's a problem that can't be fixed.

"I do have confidence in our team," Sundin said earlier yesterday, despite many younger Leafs failing to match the 36-year-old's zeal for success this season. "It's unfortunate that we're shooting ourselves in the foot, but you look down our roster and compare it to most teams, like the one we just played (Friday in Dallas) and it's similar."

Sundin tried to keep his cool after another no-show game by the Leafs last night.

"I wouldn't call this rock bottom," he insisted.

"We still have (58) games to play."

Coach Paul Maurice wasted little time in pulling Andrew Raycroft, already upset by a soft first goal and steamed when the Coyotes pounced on another rebound less than four minutes later. But they allowed just one goal after the first period and killed a 5-on-3 that would've opened the floodgates.

"(You worry) that your team will have the fortitude to stick things out," he said. "These are the times you learn about what you have."

Sundin knows the losing can't go on into December without consequences.

"I understand that this is a winning business," said Sundin, who has 29 points in 24 games. "That's our job as a team and my job in the dressing room. (But) changes are part of hockey and if you don't win, there will be some."

CONFOUNDING

The confounding part is that the Leafs can put together near flawless games against talent-laden teams such as Ottawa and then register clunkers against teams who began the weekend beneath Toronto in the standings.

Scoring has dried up, while defenceman Bryan McCabe, who had played much better since returning from a groin injury, was a minus-3 last night. Pavel Kubina got hurt, Andy Wozniewski's play started dropping off and Carlo Colaiacovo still is missing.

At least the whole Leafs hockey office was on the two-game trip for a first hand look at what ails the squad. General manager John Ferguson brought all three assistants -- Mike Penny, Doug Gilmour and Jeff Jackson -- along as well as development coach Paul Dennis and pro scout Shawn Simpson.


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