October 19, 2010
By DAVE HILSON, QMI Agency
It never hurts to be winning, and the Maple Leafs were in a buoyant mood during their morning skate Monday as they prepared to take their 4-0 record into their game against the New York Islanders.
Even their usually stoic coach, Ron Wilson, joined in on the fun, oohing after a puck went zipping by the head of sniper Phil Kessel during two-on-none drills.
Wilson kept his pleasant demeanour during the post-skate news conference, too, where he took friendly pokes at the gathered media while explaining that defenceman Carl Gunnarsson would sit in favour of Brett Lebda.
"We'll have him (Gunnarsson) watch from upstairs (at the ACC), where, as you guys know, it's a very easy game," Wilson said with a laugh.
"Hopefully, he won't eat as much as most of the people in this room would be eating."
Red-hot Clarke MacArthur said he had no idea he was skating into the record books by becoming the first Maple Leaf to score in each of the team's first four games of a season.
"It's exciting," he said. "I didn't really know that something like that existed, so it was nice to get."
MacArthur, acquired by the Leafs from the Atlanta Thrashers in the off-season, credits his linemates Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin with his sizzling start.
"Grabovski has been getting pucks out of corners and making good plays, and Kule, too, so they've done a great job ... I'm sure it's (goals) going to translate to the next guy soon."
They may not speak the same language off the ice but their on-ice play is translating into big dividends for the Maple Leafs.
"They speak amongst themselves (during practice) and then usually fill me in," MacArthur said of Kulemin and Grabovski, who both speak Russian.
"Usually when we head over to the (white) board, that's when I'm confused. Honestly, their English is really 'well,' er, I mean really 'good.' I'm the one that needs the English lessons here," the Lloydminister, Alta., native joked.
Entering play last night, MacArthur had five goals and six points in his first four games, while Kulemin had added one goal and three assists, and Grabovski had contributed three helpers. and that's "production" in any language.
VOTE OF CONFIDENCE
Under-fire rookie Nazem Kadri just received a bit of reassurance from general manager Brian Burke.
While listing off some present Leafs who suited up for past Top Prospects games, Burke tipped his hat to Kadri and another Leaf hopeful, Bradley Ross, as "two more recent guys who aren't here yet but are going to be."
Kadri, who many thought would stick with the big club for the start of this season, might be breathing a sigh of relief on the Marlies bench.
The event, which will be held at the Air Canada Centre on Jan. 18-19, will feature the Canadian Hockey League's 40 top players.