Wilson bites tongue

Leafs practice at Lakeshore Lions.Ron Wilson reacts to the drills. (MICHAEL PEAKE/SUN MEDIA)

Leafs practice at Lakeshore Lions.Ron Wilson reacts to the drills. (MICHAEL PEAKE/SUN MEDIA)

ROB LONGLEY

, Last Updated: 1:26 PM ET

Don Cherry can continue his verbal pounding of Ron Wilson on Hockey Night In Canada, but the Leafs coach isn't going to bite back.

Earlier this season Grapes called the first-year Leafs coach "pompous and arrogant" and a "typical American." Last night he added "bully" to the insults.

"I'm just not going to comment on it," Wilson said. "I think that irritates (Cherry) more. He's entitled to his opinion.

"I have my style of coaching and I've been relatively successful at it and that's what I'm going to do."

BUSY, BUSY

Wilson has been impressed with the team's fitness, a key point of emphasis early in the season. The best example was Wednesday's win in New Jersey when the Leafs had a high-entergy third period leading to a 6-5 shootout win despite not arriving in Newark until the wee hours of the morning.

But with four games in six nights -- including today's contest in Carolina - Wilson admits it has been difficult to sustain the energy.

"We're gradually working our way into better shape," Wilson said. "The pace and tempo I want to play at ... it's hard to play four games in a week."

AROUND THE BLOCK

From the opening of training camp, the Leafs coaching staff has stressed the importance of sacrificing the body in the name of blocked shots. So far it's been paying off.

Entering last night's game, the Leafs had blocked 162 shots through 10 games, tied for fourth best in the league with Pittsburgh.

The man who has made the most sacrifice is defenceman Pavel Kubina who had 23 blocked shots, 15th most in the league. Luke Schenn leads all rookies in that department with 16.

QUICK HITS

The game-to-game platooning of Swedish defencemen continued last night with Anton Stralman in for Jonas Frogren. The former got the start vs. the Rangers and both have now been healthy scratches three times ... Leafs forward Jason Blake played his 10th of the season and 600th game of his career last night.

BACKUP PLAN BACKFIRES

He has one of the hottest goalies in the NHL, a perennial Vezina Trophy candidate who has won four in a row and has an 8-2 record so far this season.

So what was Rangers coach Tom Renney thinking in giving Henrik Lundqvist a night off against the Maple Leafs? Well. when you've got a backup like Steve Valiquette, who excels against his hometown team, it's an easy call.

Renney went with the Etobicoke native last night largely because he was a perfect 3-0 with a 1.29 goals against average vs. the Leafs including a shutout on Oct. 17 in New York, but the plan backfired when the Leafs reeled off five goals in the third period against Valiquette.

"I know that my job and my role on the team is to be ready at all times," said Valiquette.

"I have to add value to the team whether I'm starting or supporting."


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