World class Leafs

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

If the Maple Leafs fail to qualify for the playoffs, which is almost a certainty, a good number may play for their home countries at the 2009 world ice hockey championships, which begin April 24 in Switzerland. One player for sure, centre Mikhail Grabovski, plans to be there.

"I try not to think about this now, but if we (the Leafs) don't have chance to make playoffs, I go to the world championships and play for Belarus," said Grabovski, who played for his country at the 2005 world championships, scoring four goals in one game against host Austria.

Belarus will play in Group A, with Canada, Hungary and Slovakia.

The Leafs aren't an elite NHL team at this point, but there are a number of players on the roster that could compete at the 2009 worlds, including Pavel Kubina (Czech Republic), Martin Gerber (host Switzerland), Anton Stralman (Sweden), Jason Blake (USA) and Lee Stempniak (USA). Tomas Kaberle (Czech Republic) and Niklas Hagman (Finland) could play if they are recovered from current injuries. Goaltender Vesa Toskala underwent hip surgery last week and will not play for Finland.

The nose knows

Maple Leafs forward Ben Ondrus, who was called up from the minors on March 5, was a bit of a mess following Saturday's 8-6 win over the Calgary Flames at the Air Canada Centre. The scrappy Ondrus went toe-to-toe against Calgary centre Warren Peters in an wildly entertaining middleweight bout but emerged from the fight with an ugly, puffy mouse under his left eye and stitches on the bridge of his nose. It also looked as if his nose had been broken, given the fact that he seemed to have trouble breathing through it after the game and the fact that it appeared more bent than usual. Ondrus, however, doesn't believe he broke it ... this time.

"It was bent before," he said, with a laugh. "It might have just moved a little bit."

Ondrus, who was signed as a free agent by the Leafs in 2004 after a fine career with the WHL Swift Current Broncos, has now been in four fights in six games since being called up from the AHL.

Ondrus and rookie defenceman Phil Oreskovic, who has been in two fights in four games since being called up from the Marlies, are obviously trying to show the organization that they can play at the NHL level and will bring an element of toughness to the team, which the Leafs have lacked at times this season.

"That's where my game fits in, penalty killer who can hold down the fourth, maybe the third line. And just come with energy and a competiveness every night," Ondrus said.


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