Leafs show frustration at practice

The Leafs have five days between games- so Tuesday's included a hard skate at the end of practice....

The Leafs have five days between games- so Tuesday's included a hard skate at the end of practice. (Toronto Sun/Craig Robertson)

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:51 AM ET

Ron Wilson doesn't look like a fan of the Beastie Boys.

But the coach thinks you really do have to "fight for your right to party."

Not so much by dropping the gloves, although he expects it might come to that by the end of this week's hamburger-type drills as his winless team tries to inspire itself with intense physical play and clear the way for goals.

Now midway through a week of practices before a five-game trip, the coach detects the on-ice temperature is rising as his 0-6-1 team takes its frustrations out on each other.

"That's what we want right now," Wilson said yesterday at the Mastercard Centre after his team cracked helmets for an hour. "Hopefully, it carries over into the games. We're trying to get better in our end and practice with some intensity. Whether it's one-on-one battles, two on one, or three on three down low, some of it is really necessary for us right now. We're trying to get out of the doldrums we're in."

There are four goalies, seven defencemen and three extra forwards, counting Phil Kessel, a perfect storm for a coaching staff looking for someone to shake up the herd in coming days.

"I want some players to get mad at each other, not just me getting mad at them," Wilson said. "It wouldn't shock me before the end of the week if we have a fight or two, which would be a good kind of elixir for us.

"I'm not going to beat this team into the ground, they feel bad enough about themselves."

One of the most dedicated players yesterday was defenceman Luke Schenn, whom Wilson benched for much of the third period Saturday against the Rangers.

"That's nice to see," Wilson said. "Maybe having a practice where it's physical gets him playing the game we think he can.

"Playing Vancouver (Saturday), they're a fairly big team with speed up front and we're going to have to be ready to battle for space in our own end. We want to get our forwards ready for a battle down low and try to find ways they can win them."

After three days of hearing that they've doomed themselves to miss the playoffs a fifth consecutive year, Wilson and the Leafs insist they need only apply what they're learning now when the TV lights come on. The most recent 4-1 loss to New York was a case of hitting a hot goaltender as much as anything.

Wilson pointed to the Rangers losing their next game to the Caps when they encountered a foe that could finish its chances.

CONFIDENCE WILL COME

"(Rangers' coach) John Tortorella could smell that coming," Wilson said. "There will come a moment when something positive happens (for the Leafs). It'll be like the damn bursting and our confidence will rise immediately.

"All you can do in the meantime is stay positive and do what we're doing now, play with intensity as part of our daily regimen."

LANCE.HORNBY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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