Rookies on the hook

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:11 AM ET

By all accounts, the Maple Leafs' annual rookie dinner was a resounding success Sunday night at one of South Florida's finer eateries.

It was eat up and shut up time for the first-year players, who had to pick up the tab for the veterans in a mostly civilized initiation rite.

At least they could split the bill five ways with Luke Schenn, John Mitchell, Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin and Jonas Frogren all on the hook as players who never have had to go through the rookie treatment in the NHL before.

"They could order whatever they want, I didn't pay attention," Schenn said. "I can live with it. It only happens once that you are a rookie in the NHL.

"It's an honour to be able to do it. It means you've made it."

SIFERS RETURNS

With the lower body injury to Mike Van Ryn, the Leafs recalled Jaime Sifers from the Marlies for his second tour of duty with the team this season.

Sifers got the call following the Marlies game Sunday at the Ricoh Coliseum and took the first flight out of town yesterday, making it to the team's noon practice at the BankAtlantic Center.

"The key is to keep his game simple," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said of the expectations for Sifers. "The first few games he did that and his play tailed off, but that's to be expected.

"He might be a little more relaxed the second time around, that's what usually happens. Usually the second or third time up, everything kind of slows down for the player."

PLAYOFF PROMISE

The Panthers are willing to roll the dice on their playoff prospects with an innovative and bold ticket selling campaign.

The team announced this week that fans who purchase a four-game package will get priority purchasing rights for the playoffs.

As well, if the team misses out on the post-season, buyers will get free tickets for four games next season.

"I thought it was important to let fans know, to promise them that our team will do everything possible to be successful on the ice over the next 31 games," Panthers coach Peter DeBoer said. "We've made no secret of our goal to make the playoffs this year, and we want fans to get excited and support us during the stretch run."

PLAYING POGGE

Wilson re-iterated yesterday that Justin Pogge will get more opportunities to show his development as the season moves along, including back-to-back games at some point as well as his first start at home.

"That's part of the plan," Wilson said. "Right now (he's back with the Marlies) for a brief period but there will be a time when we commit to a couple more games."


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