Loose Leafs lighten up

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 2:51 PM ET

It was mostly fun and games as the Maple Leafs worked at getting the mental funk out of their games during today's practice at the Mastercard Centre for Hockey Excellence.

Gone was the doom and gloom of a miserable start as coach Ron Wilson tried to shake his players out of the funk that has been building since an opening night overtime lossto the Montreal Canadiens.

The festivities included a murder ball session with tennis balls, breakaway drills and almost nothing to do with fixing the problems that have plagued this team on the ice as they have gone 0-5-1 early in this NHL season.

And for good measure, general manager Brian Burke addressed the troops for a good 20 minutes following practice.

"Brian was just re-enforcing all the things about us believing in this team and staying focused on ourselves in the room and not on all the extraneous stuff going on outside," Wilson said. "We've got to fix how we handle adversity otherwise this will be the longest season of our lives."

And they better fix it soon as the team is off to one of itís worst starts in franchise history. Next up is Saturdayís home game against the New York Rangers followed by a week off before a five-game road trip that stops in Vancouver, Dallas, Anaheim, Buffalo and Montreal.

Though the team wasn't going through proper drills, forward Phil Kessel had his first full practice with the Leafs. The former Boston Bruins sniper is expected to join the roster sometime in November and previously had worked on his conditioning by skating after practice.

"He's been doing a lot of skating," Wilson said. "He's getting closer to where he can be involved in regular practices."

Other players said Burke's message was simple: To find better ways to deal with the pressure.

"He basically told us we have to relax, handle adversity and deal with the pressure a little better," defenceman Mike Komisarek said.

Injured goaltender Jonas Gustavsson did not practice but Wilson said the Swedish rookie is likely to resume skating tomorrow with a potential return to the lineup sometime in the upcoming road trip.


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