Prepping Pogge

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

First year Leafs goalie coach Corey Hirsch has been spending plenty of time tutoring Leafs draft pick Justin Pogge. And so far the ex-NHLer likes what he has seen from the netminder who often has been touted as the Leafs starter of the future.

"He's starting to play well," Hirsch said yesterday. "I'm trying to get as much practice time in with him as I can. There's a lot of work to be done, but he's a great student.

"He's like a sponge and he's willing to learn and get better. I'm just trying to pass on as much as I can."

Pogge had started 11 games for the Marlies prior to last night with a 3-6-2 record and goals against average of 3.00.

VAN RYN ON THE MEND

Leafs general manager Cliff Fletcher has been in regular contact with injured defenceman Mike Van Ryn, who is recovering from that nasty hit from behind by Montreal's Tom Kostopoulos on Nov. 8 at the Air Canada Centre.

The first-year Leaf, who had been one of the team's top blueliners prior to the debilitating hit, is still at least three weeks away from returning to the linuep, according to Fletcher.

"The concussion issues seem to be coming along well," Fletcher said. "The biggest concern seems to be his knuckle. It's going to be difficult for him to hold a stick. That's what's taking some time.

"But we miss him. It will be good to get him back when he's ready."

DOWN TIME

After a busy stretch in which they played four games in seven nights, the Leafs were ready for some down time before Saturday's meeting against Chicago at the ACC.

The team was given yesterday off following Monday's loss to the Bruins and will return to practice today. The four-day stretch of off-days is the longest to date and second-longest of the season. The Leafs have a five-day break in late January.

QUICK HITS

When the Leafs fell into a 2-0 hole after the first period Monday night against the Bruins, it was a continuation of their struggles early in games. The Leafs have been outscored 25-12 in the opening period ... Alex Steen could be headed for a healthy scratch assignment from coach Ron Wilson. Steen saw a season-low nine minutes and 58 seconds of ice time on Monday and has just four points in 19 games.


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