Perch on point paying off for Stempniak

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

Tomas Kaberle may have copped NHL "first star of the week" honours, but somewhere along the line Lee Stempniak deserves an assist for the award.

Having led the NHL in scoring last week with 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) in four road games, Kaberle beat out runner-up Pekka Rinne, goaltender with the Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov, who copped third star honours.

Lending a helping hand in Kaberle's success was Stempniak, who recorded three goals and three assists in that same four-game period. Many of those points were accrued while manning the point alongside Kaberle on the Leafs power play, which entered play yesterday as the No. 1 unit in the league.

"We've been feeling more and more comfortable together out there," Kaberle said. "We've been moving the puck quickly on the power play and the results are beginning to show.

"The boys are starting to play better but we need to start finishing games off and get two points a night instead of one," added Kaberle, who modestly deflected any personal kudos for his player-of-the-week honours.

"The thing about Tomas this year is that I've been able to put him out in any situation," said Leafs coach Ron Wilson, whose message that Kaberle come to training camp in better shape this season was heeded by the veteran defenceman.

"I've told him I very much like the way he has been competing."

As for Stempniak, he had a disappointing 2008-09, scoring just 11 goals in a season in which he was acquired by the Leafs from the St. Louis Blues for Alex Steen and Carlo Colaiacovo.

Stempniak admitted being sent to a sports psychologist by Wilson during the off-season. Wilson also gave Stempniak some books to read in order to get the player's head in the right place, although Stempniak admitted yesterday "I didn't really read any of them."

"He didn't?" Wilson joked when being informed of Stempniak's statement. "I want those books back."

Wilson said the reasoning for sending Stempniak to get help was simple

BOOT IN BUTT

"He's like a lot of guys who say: 'Oh I don't have any confidence," Wilson explained. "I think the sports pyschologist gave him a quick boot in the butt and told him those are just lame excuses, you control your own environment on the ice.

"That was the gist of the golf books I gave him -- controlling your mind, keeping your object on the next target. He can't always think about the mistake he just made. You have to move on."

MIKE.ZEISBERGER@SUNMEDIA.CA


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