Grabovski finds Belarus brethren

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

Of all the Maple Leafs playing at the world hockey championship, centre Mikhail Grabovski is playing for probably the weakest team, Belarus.

But he is playing well, without his despised countrymen, Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn, playing for Team Belarus.

Still, both Grabovski and Belarus have risen to the occasion at the worlds. After four games, Grabovski has three goals and two assists, while Belarus has only lost one game, 6-1 to Canada.

Grabovski faces Toronto teammate Niklas Hagman today when Belarus plays against Finland.

Hagman nearly didn't play in the worlds after suffering two concussions playing for the Leafs this season, but after four games he has a goal and four assists.

Both Kostitsyn brothers play for the Montreal Canadiens and, next to Grabovski, are probably the most talented players from Belarus.

Grabovski and the Kostitsyns have been feuding for years and while Sergei couldn't play at the worlds after undergoing shoulder surgery this week, Andrei reportedly turned down the chance to play for his country because he didn't want to play with the Leafs centre.

Sergei Kostitsyn and Grabovski exchanged verbal shots on more than one occasion this NHL season with Grabovski being slapped with a three-game suspension for bumping a linesman in a Jan.8 game after he and Kostitsyn attempted to get at each other.

A couple of Leafs defencemen are playing well for 4-0 Team Canada at the worlds. Rookie Luke Schenn and Ian White are both plus four after four games.

Schenn's ice time, however, has been diminishing. After starting the tournament by playing 16 and 18 minutes against Belarus and Hungary, Schenn's ice time fell to 7:06 against Slovakia and 10:14 against the Czech Republic.

Toronto forward Jason Blake has a goal and two assists after four games for the U.S. while Marlies and sometimes Leafs defenceman Anton Stralman is a plus three with two points in two games for Sweden.

Leafs goaltender Martin Gerber, who becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer, has a stellar 1.71 goals against average and .912 save percentage, playing in all four games for Switzerland.

Swedish free agent goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, whom the Leafs hope to sign after the tournament, has played two games with a GAA of 4.90 and save percentage of .873%.

Former Leafs defenceman Kenny Jonsson of Sweden is a plus eight at the tournament, leading all players.

STEVE.BUFFERY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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