Scrappy Schenn

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:43 AM ET

Rookie defenceman Luke Schenn has done everything for the Maple Leafs so far this season, besides score a goal.

Or get a point.

Or possess a plus rating.

But the offensive deficiencies aside, Schenn has certainly made head coach Ron Wilson happy with his stalwart defensive play, including his toughness on the boards, in front of the net and, in the case Thursday night in Boston, stepping up in defence of a teammate.

The 18-year-old didn't hesitate to go after Dennis Wideman after the Bruins defenceman hammered Toronto forward Matt Stajan with a hard, but clean, open-ice hit.

"Sometimes you have to stand up for your teammates," Schenn said yesterday.

There is one other thing that the 6-foot-2, 216-pound Schenn has yet to experience in the NHL, and that is to drop the gloves, which is something the Saskatoon native said he will do, without hesitation, if the time is right.

"You don't always go looking for it, but if the situation's there, you definitely have to stand up for yourself and your teammates," he said. "You're not going to start one right at the beginning of the game, off the opening draw, or for something to do.

"But if a teammate is put in a bad situation, or it helps the team change the momentum around, then you do it."

Schenn had a few scraps in junior and generally more than held his own.

He and fellow rookie Jonas Frogren have given the Leafs, who lack a real enforcer, an element of toughness. Now with defenceman Jeff Finger readying to join the lineup after missing the first seven games of the season with a foot injury, the Leafs actually may hold an edge in toughness against some teams, which is something they haven't had yet this season.

"It's a matter of being team tough, you don't need to fight. It's a matter of having each other's back," Finger said.

Defenceman Mike Van Ryn said the Leafs are learning to play a little tougher as the season progresses, but dismissed the notion they need a heavy-weight enforcer or a goon in order to hold their own in the toughness department.

'GAME'S CHANGED'

"The game's changed. Everybody has to be able to play," Van Ryn said. "That's why a guy like Chris Neil is such a valuable player now, because he can fight, he can skate and play the game. You can't afford to have a guy out there that's slow and can't pass.

"Do we have a legitimate heavyweight? Probably not, but there's not room for those guys anymore. All lines can skate now. Look at the Red Wings, everyone of those lines is creative. The way the game is played now, speed kills."


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