Steen rips lack of effort

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

PITTSBURGH -- Alex Steen isn't about to go into the NHL season quietly.

The Leafs centre was frustrated by a sluggish opening two periods in last night's 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins and wasn't shy about sharing that view.

"It's unacceptable," Steen said. "We should have put out a lot better effort than we did the first two periods. Even though it's a pre-season game we should have played with a lot more heart."

After falling into a 3-0 hole in the second period, the Leafs opened things up with a couple of late goals, but they were never in danger of winning.

"I was excited to be back on the ice," Steen said. "In the third period we got back into it a little bit more, but we're going to have to work this out."

GONCHAR GONE

The Pens received a serious blow yesterday when it was confirmed that their best defenceman and anchor of the power play, Sergei Gonchar, will be out of the lineup for several weeks. Gonchar, who dislocated his shoulder in a pre-season contest this past weekend, still is being evaluated and the team hopes surgery can be avoided.

"We really won't know more until he sees some other doctors and gets other opinions," Penguins general manager Ray Shero said last night. "It's a challenge, but no different than last year playing without our top goaltender (Marc-Andre Fleury) and our top player (Sidney Crosby) gone for a long time as well."

FIRST CUTS

The Leafs began the process of trimming the bulky training-camp roster yesterday, moving six players.

Forwards Joel Champagne (Chicoutimi -- QMJHL), Dale Mitchell (Windsor -- OHL) and Mikhail Stefanovich (Quebec -- QMJHL) were sent back to their respective junior clubs.

The team also issued outright releases to three more forwards on amateur tryout contracts -- Jadran Beljo (London -- OHL), Thomas Stajan (Brampton -- OHL) and Eric Wellwood (Windsor -- OHL).

While there are more cuts to come, the team won't move too quickly on the trimming because of pre-season contests on three consecutive nights next week.

BRIEFLY

Last night marked Pens defenceman Hal Gill's first game against his former team. Gill was dealt to the Pens at the trade deadline for a pair of draft choices ... The Penguins have sold out 10 regular-season games and once again one of the biggest draws are the Leafs. Both Toronto visits are sellouts and not necessarily because of their drawing power. Leafs fans from Southern Ontario regularly make the easy drive south and both Toronto dates are on Saturdays ... After the Penguins play the Leafs tomorrow at the Air Canada Centre, they travel to Europe the next day for the remainder of training camp. Included in the journey will be a pre-season contest against Finnish club team Jokerit before the regular-season opening pair against Ottawa in Sweden.


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