Blake OK with rumours

TERRY KOSHAN

, Last Updated: 7:47 AM ET

The Maple Leafs don't play on Feb. 26, the day of the NHL trade deadline, which might suit Jason Blake just fine.

Though his name has become a part of trade talk, Blake does not mind the speculation.

"I think everybody loves rumours," Blake said. "The best place to be on trade deadline or at least the day before is in Canada."

Captain Mats Sundin might not agree. His name has been linked to the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames, and it's known the Canucks will at least kick the Leafs' tires on Sundin, if they have not done so already. Sun Media's Lance Hornby reported the Western Canada connection yesterday, and other names that can be added to the list of Canucks who might come to Toronto include defenceman Kevin Bieksa, forward Mason Raymond and prospect Michael Grabner. Alex Edler and Ryan Kesler are thought to be youngsters who are untouchable.

STRAL STIRS THE DRINK

Rookie defenceman Anton Stralman played 20 minutes, seven seconds against the Boston Bruins on Thursday, easily the most he has played in any of his 18 games this season.

"Why did we play him more?" coach Paul Maurice said. "Because he looks more comfortable and he has become more effective.

"It's a huge learning curve to playing defence (in the NHL). His strengths allow him to fit in a little bit quicker because he can skate and handle the puck. It will take him 100 games before he gets a book on most teams, and we have lots of time for that."

LOOSE LEAFS

Five Leafs veterans -- Mats Sundin, Tomas Kaberle, Darcy Tucker, Pavel Kubina and Vesa Toskala -- had the option of not practising yesterday and all of them took it. ... When asked if two wins in a row had lightened the mood in the dressing room, Maurice said: "You don't feel like you are back to even. There is still a real concern around here for where we are at. It allows you to have a shootout at the end of practice and guys can have some jokes while it is happening."


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