Coach doubting Tomas

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:01 AM ET

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Most nights, Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson is content to work Tomas Kaberle like a dog.

Last night, the struggling defenceman found out what it was like to spend a little time in the oft-used team doghouse.

Prior to the 6-3 loss against the Phoenix Coyotes to end a 1-2 western road swing for the Leafs, Kaberle had averaged a team-high 24:03 of ice time.

On this night, he joined a sparse crowd of 13,337 at the Jobing.com Arena by spending the entire first period glued to the Leafs bench beside backup goaltender Curtis Joseph.

Wilson clearly was ticked with Kaberle's suspect effort in a 5-2 loss to San Jose on Tuesday, a game in which he saw the ice for a season low 18:56.

It was yet another of Wilson's declarations that no matter who you are, if you stink, you sit.

"I support whatever the coach does," Leafs president and general manager Brian Burke said of the move during the second intermission. "I don't think (Wilson) was happy with Tomas' game in San Jose and he was making a statement."

And the statements just kept getting louder.

Before Wilson met with the media, he got the message to arena officials that his team isn't done here, scheduling a practice for 8 a.m., this morning on what was supposed to be an off-day as the team returns home.

Kaberle certainly didn't do much to redeem himself when he finally saw the ice to start the second period. He was caught well up the ice when the Coyotes' Martin Hanzal scored a short-handed effort 27 seconds into the period, capping a hat trick for the Phoenix winger.

And, with the score 3-3 after 40 minutes, Kaberle was on the ice for all three Coyotes goals in the final period.

"He apparently sent a message back by being minus-4," Wilson said when asked if he was making a statement with Kaberle, who was actually a minus-3 as he was on for Jason Blake's goal.

"We just need everybody with a better effort. "The minuses (with Kaberle) keep piling up. It's about accountability."

Kaberle, who finished the night with 13:45 of ice time, seemed to be a mix of shock, frustration and embarrassment about the move.

"I haven't been playing my best for sure, but I have to keep my head up," he said.

"Obviously, it's hard. Obviously, I have to do something to get my ice time back."

It was a busy night for Wilson in other ways. After his top line struggled in San Jose on Tuesday, he replaced Alexei Ponikarovsky with Lee Stempniak to shake things up.

Ponikarovsky responded with new linemates Blake and Dominic Moore by scoring a pair of first-period goals.

Steve Reinprecht broke the 3-3 tie at the 5:21 of the third, then added an insurance marker at 14:28. Todd Fedoruk blasted one past Vesa Toskala for the sixth Coyotes goal.

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REPLAY

NONIS NEARER

Maple Leafs president and general manager Brian Burke appears to be inching closer to bringing his former assistant Dave Nonis to town to join his management team.

Burke acknowledged that he has been talking to Nonis this week.

"We're in discussions with Dave Nonis," Burke said of his desire to add Nonis as his senior vice-president. "We have not reached an agreement but we are in discussions with him."

If things go as planned, Nonis could join the team by as early as this weekend.

HATS OFF

The game wasn't 21 minutes old and Coyotes' Martin Hanzal had doubled his season output with a hat trick to give the Coyotes a 3-2 lead. The first two -- each on a goalmouth scramble -- came while the Leafs were facing a delayed penalty call.

SLOW STARTERS

Hanzal's opening score, at 2:07 of the first period, marked the 10th time in 14 road games the Leafs surrendered the first goal of the game.

POINT-GETTERS

Toronto G A P

Jason Blake 1 2 3

Alexei Ponikarovsky 2 0 2

Dominic Moore 0 2 2

Jeff Finger 0 1 1

Phoenix leaders

Martin Hanzal 3 0 3

Steve Reinprecht 2 0 2

UP NEXT

Tomorrow -- Maple Leafs vs. Washington Capitals, at the Air Canada Centre, 7 p.m. (CBC, AM 640).


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