Leafs get Liberty from Newark

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:45 PM ET

TORONTO - Broadcaster Joe Bowen joked that Newark, N.J., has “dropped significantly” in his list of vacation destinations and those of many Leafs players.

Players and staff had as much Jersey exposure as Bruce Springsteen for three days in what was supposed to be an in-and-out trip to play the Devils on Boxing Day. It wasn’t until about 9 a.m. Tuesday that the team plane finally took off from Newark’s Liberty Airport, which was still struggling under almost two feet of snow from an East Coast blizzard Sunday.

It took the Leafs’ bus five hours to reach their emergency hotel destination in Short Hill, N.J., normally a 25-minute drive. Big rigs were on the side of the road all the way and the second smaller bus carrying media and trainers had to be rescued by the players from a huge drift. The team made it back to Newark on Monday in an attempt to escape, but a series of mishaps with airport equipment and then high winds eventually saw them taken off the plane and go back to their hotel. Attempts to bring in another larger and sturdier plane and leave from LaGuardia Airport in New York City were scuttled.

“In 36 hours, we checked in and out and back in to the same hotel and the same rooms,” fellow broadcaster Paul Hendrick said.

On Tuesday morning, the Leafs came back to the airport, where they found the bus entrance blocked and had to go in the terminal in groups of four and five.

They arrived home in time for a brief game-day skate at the MasterCard Centre, the irony being the visiting Carolina Hurricanes were here a day early.

CRABB ON SPECIAL

All those hours cooped up in the bus caused centre Tim Brent to catch a bad flu bug. That gave Joey Crabb a second crack at the Leafs. He had an assist in a two-game callup in November. With the Marlies, Crabb led the farm team with 11 goals in 34 games. Nazem Kadri also got the hook for the game wit his goalless streak hitting 17 games. Defenceman Brett Lebda came back in as a forward. Brent’s absence leaves Toronto with seven players who have appeared in all 35 games: Luke Schenn, Fredrik Sjostrom, Tomas Kaberle, Clarke MacArthur, Colton Orr, Nikolai Kulemin and Phil Kessel.

LOOSE LEAFS

Neither Leafs goalie, Jonas Gustvasson nor Jean-Sebastien Giguere, have won more than two straight games this season ... Dion Phaneuf continues to lead all Leafs in all-star game fan voting with more than 50,000, but he is far down the list of potential starting defencemen, topped by Kris Letang of the Penguins at nearly 400,000 ... Former Hurricane Mike Zigomanis is getting hot again for the Marlies with five points in four games ... Jussi Rynnas has made 58 saves on 64 shots in winning his past two starts on the farm...Carolina’s Paul Maurice recently coached his 1,000th NHL game, the youngest of the 19 men who have reached the milestone.


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