|To break up the week, the Leafs held practice north of the city. (Sun Media/Craig Robertson)
RICHMOND HILL -- And now for something completely different as the Maple Leafs continue to look for innovative ways to snap out of their seven-game losing streak.
Coach Ron Wilson had his troops get in their equipment at the Mastercard Centre in Etobicoke this morning before boarding the bus to head north of the city where they are skating on two mini-sized surfaces at the National Training Rinks facility.
Owned in part by former Leaf Mike Gartner, the rinks themselves are roughly three quarters the size of NHL rinks. Besides shaking things up before they embark on a five-game road trip in search of their first win of the season, the Leafs seem to be having some fun for a change.
"We just thought it might be a change in pace for them," said Gartner, who owns the rink in partnership with former NHLer Wes Jarvis. "They've been struggling a little bit and with five or six practices in a row, it gives them a chance to do something a little bit different.
“Sometimes coaches will do anything to help work their way out of a slump.”
For the most part, the Leafs have been playing three-on-three games as they are divided between the two surfaces. Only two goaltenders are participating -- Joey MacDonald, who will get his third consecutive start Saturday in Vancouver and his temporary backup, James Reimer.
Both Vesa Toskala and Jonas Gustavsson are recovering from injury.
When Gartner first offered the idea to the Leafs, he figured Wilson might take him up on it later in the season when a change of pace might be more of a relief. But the way things are going, the Leafs coach figured why wait?
"With the tighter environment, everything moves a little bit quicker," Gartner said of the idea. "They’ll get a good workout here."
The Leafs haven't played since Saturday night when they fell 4-1 to the New York Rangers. The team is scheduled to practice in Etobicoke tomorrow before heading to Vancouver later in the day.