More ice for McCabe

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:32 AM ET

When fans called for Bryan McCabe to be benched, traded or even banished to the new Maple Leafs hockey school for minors, coach Paul Maurice's defiant response was to play the defenceman more.

In the Leafs' past eight games, McCabe has been 30 minutes or higher in all but one, getting eight points, while being even on the plus-minus scale.

Partner Tomas Kaberle saw his ice time increase to more than 26 minutes from just under 24. Kaberle is plus-5 in the past four games and broke out of a points slump Tuesday against Nashville with a pair of assists.

The reuniting of the pair has been a big factor in Toronto's 3-0-1 run the past two weeks.

"We've both got momentum," Kaberle said yesterday.

"Bryan knows it's a long season and not everything is going to go right.

"But you stick to basics and things work out."

APPLYING THE BREAKS

Breaks, those inexplicable episodes in a game with a deflected puck, a referee's call or a broken stick that can make or ruin a season, have swung Toronto's way.

On Tuesday, defenceman Hal Gill's shot off a Predators' stick went right to Nik Antropov, Wade Belak had a room-service hop on his stick for his first goal in four years and McCabe watched Marek Zidlicky of the Preds come within a hair of duplicating his infamous own goal on Oct. 15 against Buffalo.

"There were a couple more that went our way; I had a puck an inch from the goal line," winger Alex Steen said.

Goalie Vesa Toskala has been both good and lucky in keeping the Leafs in so many games of late. He will make his fourth straight start tonight in New York.

LOOSE LEAFS

Wade Belak still was celebrating his first goal in four years yesterday. "I was asked to call my mom immediately, so I woke up my folks,'' Belak said. "She was pretty excited. She's going to have to give me five bucks. The rule still applies from minor hockey." ... Kaberle has tied Ian Turnbull for third place in assists by a Toronto defenceman with 302. "Those are the things you think about after your career," Kaberle said.


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