Rest for the weary

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:22 AM ET

The Maple Leafs practiced yesterday, although coach Ron Wilson gave nine regulars the day off, including starting goaltender Vesa Toskala, defencemen Pavel Kubina and Tomas Kaberle, and forwards Lee Stempniak, Jason Blake, Matt Stajan, Nik Antropov, Mikhail Grabovski and Dominic Moore.

"We told some guys we didn't want them on the ice," said Wilson. "It was giving some guys some work who needed it and giving guys who were a little run down and tired a necessary rest."

The Leafs have played five games in the last nine days, including three in the west, and are clearly dragging.

Defenceman Luke Schenn and forward Niklas Hagman missed yesterday's practice after being injured in Toronto's 2-1 loss to the Washington Capitals on Saturday night.

SWITCHING ALLEGIANCE

Defenceman Mike Van Ryn, who has been out since Nov. 8 with a series of injuries after being hit by Montreal's Tom Kostopolous, did practice yesterday ahead of his anticipated return to action on Friday against the Buffalo Sabres, but then hurried out of Lakeshore Lions Arena so he could attend the Buffalo Bills-Miami Dolphins game at the Rogers Centre later in the afternoon. Van Ryn, a native of London, is a big Dolphins fan, as his wife Amber is a former Dolphins cheerleader.

Van Ryn, a former Florida Panther, somehow managed to secure two seats at the 50-yard line. "I used to be a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. I had to retire all my Steelers stuff when I met her. I'm a Dolphins fan now."

WILD, FUNNY STUFF

Defenceman Jonas Frogren, who has been able to play only 10 games because of an injured right elbow but is expected to return next week, was asked by a reporter after practice yesterday if he was now able to shoot.

"He couldn't shoot before," quipped forward Jamal Mayers, who was sitting nearby.


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