Leafs get an early wake-up call

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:28 PM ET

TORONTO - Two losses by a combined 9-3 score and an all-night cross-country plane ride that ended at 4:30 a.m. did not excuse the Maple Leafs from work on Sunday.

With a game against the Atlanta Thrashers on Monday, most of the team showed up for a stationary bike workout on Sunday afternoon at the MasterCard Centre, in addition to other exercises.

Until around 1 p.m. on Sunday, it was believed that coach Ron Wilson intended to put his team on the ice, no doubt to sharpen their shooting eye. “It’s good to get in here, get a little sweat on and get your body woken up,” winger and leading scorer Clarke MacArthur said. “Everything today was to get a win tomorrow. Everyone prepared themselves today, whatever it took (resting or working out). As long as we have jump tomorrow.”

Time to bear down

Monday’s game will be the first of four meetings against the Thrashers and the start of six of the next eight in the Eastern Conference.

If Toronto is still 10-plus points out of the playoffs going into the New Year, it will be a very difficult climb.

“These are huge games for us,” Armstrong said.

“We were closing the gap for a little while, but now we’re letting it slip again. Against the teams in the East we have to bear down, especially against those ahead of us in playoff positions that we’re trying to catch.”

Big Mac attack

While some Leafs have been bouncing up, down and around on forward lines, MacArthur credits good chemistry between himself, Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin for plays such as Saturday in Vancouver were the trio made slick passes for Toronto’s only goal.

“I think we communicate a lot on the ice and off,” MacArthur said.

“It’s to the point where we’ve played 30 games now and you know where guys are going to be. They bring a lot of hustle every game. They don’t take nights off or stuff like that.”

Loose Leafs

It’s expected rookie forward Nazem Kadri will come back in the lineup against the Thrashers after Wilson benched him in Vancouver for some shaky decisions with the puck earlier in the trip. Wilson did not address the media on Sunday, but Kadri remains with the Leafs and not the Marlies ... Jonas Gustavsson was 1-1 last year against the Thrashers, winning and losing one-goal decisions to Ondrej Pavelec ... Gustavsson on the 1-2 Western Canadian road swing: “We were aiming for two wins out of three and I guess we failed on that. In (beating) Edmonton, except for the first period, we played very well. In Calgary, it wasn’t really there. They played a good game and we couldn’t find a way to get any momentum. In Vancouver, we bounced back against a really good team. With the exception of a couple of lucky bounces we could’ve won the game 3-1. The effort was pretty good, but of course we would have liked more points.”


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