October 15, 2010
By ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency
No doubt Leafs coach Ron Wilson is impressed by the contributions of winger Clarke MacArther, who has four goals in three games thus far. But before he signed with the Leafs, Wilson had a different view of his team's early leading scorer.
"I'm embarrassed to say this, but I don't really remember Clarke from before," Wilson said following Thursday's practice at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan. "Before, in Buffalo, he was playing a third-line role and I was always more concerned about the people on the top two lines.
"I thought he'd be on our third line, but he showed a lot in training camp."
No one, Wilson included, expects MacArthur to continue on his torrid pace. But with linemates Nik Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski, he has proven himself to be a valuable and productive second liner.
"If he could chip in 20 or 25 (goals) -- the most he has ever scored is 17 -- anything beyond that would be a plus for us," Wilson said. "He's playing with a lot of confidence."
Not that Kris Versteeg didn't contribute in Wednesday's win over Pittsburgh -- he played a key checking role at times -- but the winger recognizes the team's first line can't have too many off nights, like the one against the Penguins.
The line of Versteeg, Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel managed just one shot on net in the game as the second and fourth lines provided a pair of goals apiece.
"We just need to get more pucks to the net," Versteeg said. "The first two games we were good at it.
"The other lines are clicking and now we are going to have to step up and start producing for us to win some hockey games."
LEBDA ON THE MEND
Defenceman Brett Lebda has recovered sufficiently from his injured shoulder to be cleared to return to game action.
But Wilson isn't going to rush him back, especially with things going so well for his team.
"He's cleared now but we've told him it won't be until Monday (at the earliest) before he will play," Wilson said of Lebda, who missed most of training camp because of the injury, effectively denying him a realistic shot at making the team.
The morning after getting clocked by Pittsburgh defenceman Deryk Engelland, Colton Orr had lost his wooziness and was back on the ice Thursday. Orr is expected to be back in the lineup on Friday ... Goaltender J.-S. Giguere, who was in the net for the first two games, is expected to return to action against the Rangers ... By skating at the Chelsea Piers Sky Rink on Manhattan's West Side on Thursday, the Leafs avoided a long commute out of town for their workout. The team was able to go through a 45-minute practice on ice that wasn't quite as solid as they are used to. "It held up good for about 40 minutes," assistant coach Tim Hunter said. "But it's not used to having guys like us on it all the time." ... Leafs general manager Brian Burke joined Gary Bettman live in his Manhattan studio for Thursday's NHL Hour radio show. Commenting on his team's fast start, Burke said: "I could run for mayor right now. Of course if we lose the next three, I couldn't win as dog catcher."