Young Leafs playing keep away

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:15 AM ET

LONDON, Ont. -- By all impressions Dallas Eakins is a decent guy and a good hockey coach with the Toronto Marlies.

But none of the 28 players at the Maple Leafs rookie camp this week here at the John Labatt Centre want to get too close to him.

"I don't even talk to these guys about the Marlies," Eakins said Tuesday.

"It's like I'm the black plague. They don't want to come near me and have anything Marlie rub off on them right now because they want to challenge for NHL jobs."

For his part, Eakins has been encouraging the attitude for the benefit of the big team.

"I tell them not to talk to me about our schedule or anything like that but to get ready to go challenge for jobs," Eakins said. "That's what needs to be done in this organization. I don't care if it's Phaneuf or Kessel or who it is, these guys need to be pushed from the bottom for their ice time."

PROTECTION POLICY

Like hotshot first-round pick Nazem Kadri, the Leafs were also shielding Michael Liambas from the media, albeit for vastly different reasons.

Liambas, who got the boot from the OHL last year for his hit on Kitchener rookie Ben Fanelli was seen as a controversial training camp invite by some, though certainly not to a former junior teammate.

"I definitely think he deserved to be here and I'm in his corner," said Greg McKegg, who played alongside Liambas with the Erie Otters.

"I really hope something good happens for him. He's such a hard worker, a solid player and he's a game-changer. People don't always understand that you always need guys like that on a team."

Liambas may have made another friend Tuesday night when he scrapped Ottawa's Eric Gyba, who was trying to goad Kadri into a fight. Liambas came out on the short end of the fight, however.

GAME NOTES

Kadri returned to the lineup last night after missing Sunday's game with a minor hip injury. He was held goalless in the two games he played ... One of the things the Leafs like about forward prospect Jerry D'Amigo is his hustle, which paid off with a short-handed goal late in the second-period Tuesday. D'Amigo grabbed the puck in the neutral zone, got the jump on the Sens checkers and banked it in off an Ottawa defenceman for his second goal of the tournament ... After Tuesday's 3-2 loss to Ottawa Senators prospects, the Leafs finished the three-game mini-tournament with a record of 1-2 ... The players returned to Toronto following the game, with many of them scheduled to move on to the main training camp which begins with medicals on Friday. The Leafs are expected to have 60-plus players at training camp, which includes nine pre-season contests, including five on consecutive nights starting next Tuesday.


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