January 12, 2010
By STEVE BUFFERY, QMI AGENCY
GUNNING FOR A RETURN
Defenceman Carl Gunnarsson practised full-out with the team yesterday and is expected back in the lineup for tonight's game against the Carolina Hurricanes at the earliest, or Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers at the latest. Both games are at home. The 6-foot-2 rookie, who was a pleasant surprise out of camp this season, missed the past 21 games with an elbow injury.
"I expect him to fight in his first shift," said a sarcastic Leafs coach Ron Wilson, when asked what he was hoping for from the non-brawling Gunnarsson.
Wilson said Gunnarsson does a lot of little things well that the Leafs have lacked on defence. "He's very mobile. He gets to the pucks first, he's a good penalty killer. He's not a sensational player in the sense that he's going to do end-to-end. But he makes good first-passes and defends very well."
Gunnarsson was quite winded when he staggered into the dressing room following practice yesterday. Winded, but content.
"It just felt good to be out there doing all the stuff they're doing, battling and full body contact," the personable Swede said.
Mike Komisarek could be out another week-to-10 days.
The Leafs spent some time working on special teams (they are dead-last in the NHL the penalty kill, with a "success" kill rate of 68.3%). They also spent some time practising blocking shots.
"My focus was a little more on the power play -- not improvising so much and having a few set plays we can go back to, at least to start out power play," Wilson said.