Grabovski's fighting spirit

Mikhail Grabovski's fight with teammate Francois Beauchemin was the second such incident as a Leaf...

Mikhail Grabovski's fight with teammate Francois Beauchemin was the second such incident as a Leaf since he arrived last season. (REUTERS/Hans Deryk)

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 2:11 PM ET

The Maple Leafs hope to bring their fighting spirit from the practice rink to the Air Canada Centre and Bell Centre in the next 48 hours.

"Maybe I need to play better in a game and use my energy in a game," said centre Mikhail Grabovski, who was featured in a Sunday dust-up at the MasterCard Centre when he took an ill-advised swing at bigger teammate Francois Beauchemin. The defenceman responded in kind and assistant coach Tim Hunter had to restrain the pair.

But Grabovski, who has four goals and 12 assists in 24 games, and his 29th-place Leafs have to concentrate on two things they've been unable to knock off this season, a win over a division opponent and a weekday victory at home.

The Leafs take on Buffalo and stingy goaltender Ryan Miller tonight and travel to Montreal where almost every recent game against the Canadiens has been a scorefest. Toronto is 0-2-3 in the Northeast Division.

The fight was Grabovski's second such incident as a Leaf since he arrived last season and follows some similar fireworks from his days with the Canadiens. He said he and Beauchemin have yet to sort their differences out.

"I haven't talked to anybody about this incident...it (was) emotions," Grabovski said this morning. "Today is a new game."

But Grabovski insisted he's happy here, just not with the team's record.

"For me, it's easier this year. I feel comfortable in my second year," Grabovski said. "For me, the start hasn't been very well, but we have a big season and there are more games coming. If I work hard, listen to the coach and score in practice, we'll make points."

Beauchemin, who said he knows he might have to go into a scrum tonight or tomorrow to protect the smaller Grabovski, was in a forgiving mood.

"We go hard and sometimes stuff like that happens," Beauchemin said. "We just move on and focus on tonight. We'll talk about it one day, maybe tonight before the game. It happens once on every team during the season."

The next two opponents for the Leafs couldn't be more different. Buffalo slams the door on the Leafs with Ryan Miller in goal as Toronto has managed just 10 goals overall on the Sabres in the past seven games in which its record has been 1-5-1. The past eight games against Montreal have seen 62 total goals scored.

"Against Buffalo, we have to play more sound and not trade rush chances," warned Leaf winger Lee Stempniak. "(Playing Montreal), I don't even know the games end up like that with all the goals, It seems there are lots of power plays. One of our goals is to work hard using our feet and force teams to take penalties against us."

Defenceman and alternate captain Mike Komisarek returns to the lineup for the Leafs tonight, a bit ahead of schedule after tearing a quad musacle on Nov. 10. With Carl Gunnarsson earning a regular role on the blueline, that means Garnet Exelby and Jeff Finger will both be spectators.

Niklas Hagman was named one of the NHL's three stars of the week today, tying Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby's five-goal performance in three games and taking the team lead with 13 goals.

The Sabres brought the minimum 20 players to Toronto with winger Patrick Kaleta serving a suspension. Miller and coach Lindy Ruff are convinced the Leafs are better than their 6-11-7 record.

"Toronto is not a bad team," Miller said. "With Phil Kessel back there's a different dynamic."

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TONIGHT'S LINEUPS

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS


Goal

Jonas Gustavsson
Joey MacDonald


Forwards

Alexei Ponikarovsky-Matt Stajan-Phil Kessel

Niklas Hagman-Mikhail Grabovski-Christian Hanson

Nikolai Kulemin-Wayne Primeau-Lee Stempniak

Jason Blake-Jamal Mayers-Colton Orr


Defence

Francois Beauchemin-Ian White

Mike Komisarek-Tomas Kaberle

Luke Schenn-Carl Gunnarsson

BUFFALO SABRES


Goal

Ryan Miller
Patrick Lalime


Forwards

Thomas Vanek-Derek Roy-Jason Pominville

Clarke MacArthur-Tim Connolly-Drew Stafford

Jochen Hecht-Tim Kennedy-Mike Grier

Nathan Paetsch-Matt Ellis-Adam Mair


Defence

Henrik Tallinder-Tyler Myers

Chris Butler-Andrej Sekera

Toni Lydman-Steve Montador


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