Bell fighting for double digits

LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

Mark Bell doesn't think he has dialed the wrong number.

While enough Maple Leafs teammates and their foes still equate No. 28 with Tie Domi and the enforcer's role, Bell thought his former Chicago Blackhawks jersey number was a good switch from No. 9 and a forgettable first season in Toronto.

Bell was suspended at the start of 2007-08 for an off-ice hit-and-run driving offence in California in 2006 and made little impact with the Leafs before his orbital bone was broken by Ryan Malone of the Pittsburgh Penguins in an early January fight.

"I tried No. 7 (in San Jose), that didn't work, I tried No. 9 and that didn't work," a wry Bell said yesterday at Lakeshore Lions Arena. "So I went back to what was working for me, getting double digits on my back.

"It's just a number change, though I feel bad for those three fans in Toronto who had those Bell No. 9 sweaters last year. Hopefully, they can get them changed."

Domi's number had not been picked up by any Maple Leafs player in the two years since he retired.

"I realized that and talked to Tie about it. He said: 'Go ahead, it's got a lot of goals left in it.' Tie and I bumped heads a few times, but we didn't play each other a lot (being in different conferences)."

Bell, who turned 28 last month, hopes to get back near the 20-goal form he exhibited in Chicago, but despite the damage done to his facial features in the Malone fight, he said he can't be skittish about dropping the gloves again should the situation arise.

"You can't let it bother you," Bell said.

"Injuries happen in a hockey fight. We'll just put that behind us and go full steam ahead.

"I'm looking forward to adding more scoring to the team. I believe in myself that I can get back to where I was. Everything is good and the body feels great."

Bell did well in speed skating drills yesterday at Lakeshore. But among the fastest was former St. Louis Blues forward Jamal Mayers, as the players worked out in groups of six under the supervision of strength coaches Matt Nichol and Anthony Belza.

NUMBERS GAME

In other Leafs number juggling for the coming season, Pavel Kubina avoided an awkward situation with Curtis Joseph by giving the 41-year-old veteran goalie back his No. 31 and opting for 77.

"I haven't seen Pavel yet, but he told me the number is coming my way," Joseph said. "I still have to work out what I'm going to buy him; dinner, cowboy boots or a leather jacket."

Darcy Tucker's No. 16 has gone to newcomer forward Niklas Hagman, while defenceman Jonas Frogren gets Bryan McCabe's No. 24.

LOOSE LEAFS

The Leafs players participate in a charity golf tournament today at Angus Glen, then get set for camp medicals on Friday.


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