|Toronto Maple Leafs' Kris Versteeg skates during an outdoor practice in Toronto. (REUTERS/Mike Cassese)
TORONTO - Before the Leafs made their way to Trinity Bellwoods Park for their annual community practice, they had a full, high-tempo workout at the MasterCard Centre in Etobicoke.
With three days off before the team returns to action, Leafs coach Ron Wilson wanted to make sure his team got a full practice in, something that wouldn’t have been possible at the smaller, outdoor rink.
The Leafs were on the ice for more than an hour at the MasterCard Centre in a pre-emptive strike at any conditioning losses that might take place over the holiday. While most NHL teams had games scheduled for either Wednesday or Thursday, the Leafs have been off since Monday and don’t return until a Boxing Day date against the Devils.
“Every break is a good break,” Wilson said. “Now we get three days to enjoy families and re-charge and come ready to play in New Jersey.”
Because of the league collective bargaining agreement which doesn’t allow players to travel on Christmas Day, the Leafs won’t fly to Newark until Sunday morning where they will have a quick game-day skate in advance of their meeting with the Devils.
No waffling here
Wilson, like his players, has no patience for any discussion surrounding the latest waffle toss at the Air Canada Centre.
“It’s dumb,” Wilson said following the outdoor skate. “Any time somebody throws something, garbage, on the ice, that’s dumb.”
There’s no disputing Wilson’s point and MLSEL management has made it clear that throwing anything on the ice will be met with harsh consequences, including police action.
But with all the attention the incident has been getting lately, we’re betting we haven’t seen the end of it.
Leafs defenceman Tomas Kaberle would rather see the Christmas break arrive on a winning streak, but figures some time away may be beneficial for the struggling team.
“It’s not easy when you lose three in a row and run into a few days off,” Kaberle said. “But we’ve had a couple good days of practice and hopefully we can get some energy going again and play like we did starting the season.”
Like many of the Leafs, Kaberle has some interest in the coming world junior championships and will have a close eye on the young prospects from the Czech Republic.
“It’s always exciting when the young guys get the chance to show what they’ve got in the biggest tournament of their lives,” said Kaberle, who recorded his 500th career point Monday night against the Atlanta Thrashers. “They all want to show the GMs and scouts that they can play in the NHL.”
As expected, Leafs prospect Jerry D’Amigo made the final roster for the U.S. team that will look to defend it’s title at the world junior championship beginning Boxing Day in Buffalo. The Leafs allowed D’Amigo to leave the Toronto Marlies for the tournament to continue his development. The 19-year-old used last year’s tourney as a springboard to move up the Leafs depth chart ... Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf on Wednesday’s outdoor skate in front of hundreds of frigid fans at Trinity Bellwoods. “It’s like when you are a kid only the ice is better,” ... Injured forward Mike Brown continues to get some hard skating time in after Leafs practices but is still a couple weeks away from returning from an injured finger.