Scorers try a little 3-on-3

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:06 AM ET

Now this is something different: Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson taking advice from a broadcaster to help his team snap out of its seven-game losing streak.

Former Leaf Bob McGill -- an analyst on Leafs TV -- suggested to the coach recently that a little 3-on-3 hockey on a pair of suburban "mini" rinks might be a nice change of pace for the struggling team.

So, when the players showed up yesterday at the Mastercard Centre, their regular practice venue in Etobicoke, they were told to get in their gear and board a bus for a trip up to the National Training Rinks facility in Richmond Hill.

Owned in part by another former Leaf, Mike Gartner, the rinks themselves are roughly three-quarters the size of NHL rinks. It made for some glorified shinny with plenty of offence, an area the team has struggled mightily with early in the season.

"We just thought it might be a change in pace for them," said Gartner, who plays 3-on-3 with McGill once a week. "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.

PERFECT TIMING

"Sometimes coaches will do anything to help work their way out of a slump."

With rigorous practices Monday and Tuesday and another planned today before the Leafs board a flight to Vancouver to start a five-game road swing on Saturday night, Wilson thought yesterday's timing was perfect for the off-beat action.

"It's hard for people to understand when you haven't won a game that we're trying to have some fun," said Wilson, who a week ago let the players enjoy a dodgeball game. "But letting guys relax a little and compete at the same time and get a good workout in is exactly what the doctor ordered."

For those scoring at home, the Blue squad, composed of Francois Beauchemin, John Mitchell, Lee Stempniak, Garnet Exelby and Luke Schenn took the title.

Like many of the Maple Leafs forwards, Mitchell is looking to regain his scoring touch. He has just two assists in seven games and is a minus-6.

"A lot of us have had a slow start. Not winning a game is a big thing,' Mitchell said.

"It's definitely not the start I would have imagined for myself or for this team. It's all in our heads, I think."


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