Leafs' Brown eyes Tuesday return

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:31 PM ET

TORONTO - Winger Mike Brown could play by the time the Leafs road trip rolls into San Jose next Tuesday as his broken index finger is almost healed.

“I just got cleared to start shooting and it felt good,” Brown said. “I can’t take slapshots or one timers right now, but I’m taking steps. I’m cleared to do everything (else) in practice.

“I never thought a bone would take that long to heal, but it was a bad break and now we’re basically waiting on every x-ray.”

Brown isn’t known as a scorer of course, but the energy forward is known to drop the gloves now and then and a broken finger is a real liability in that line of work. He broke the finger blocking a shot on Nov. 30.

FEELING THE PAYNE

In Don Cherry’s latest book, Hockey Stories Part 2, he repeated a yarn from the minors when future NHL coaches Dan Bylsma of the Penguins and Davis Payne of the Blues were taking boxing lessons from ECHL Greensboro coach and former NHL ruffian Jeff Brubaker. The latter decided if the two NCAA grads were going to survive in the NHL, they had better learn the fine art of fighting.

Sparring with Payne to get him worked up, Brubaker gave one push too hard and Payne socked him and bloodied his nose.

According to Grapes, Brubaker gave himself a shake and said: “God that was good, I’d forgotten how great that felt.”

BLUES CLUES

Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson on the Blues, who shut out the Leafs 4-0 last season in Missouri and haven’t played in Toronto since October 2008:

“They’re a fast team and their defence is very involved in the attack. I know a few of them very well. We have to make sure we are coming back hard and keeping them on the perimeter. They struggle a little bit on the road and we have to take advantage of that.”

KESSEL AT THE IMPROV

Phil Kessel is not scoring at his expected pace, but Wilson likes the way he has responded to the coaching staff’s demand that he become less predictable. “He’s using his speed, he’s using his linemates well,” Wilson said. “Joey Crabb has helped him there, making plays and he’s able to keep up and work the corners well.

“Phil has been coming at goalies from all different angles and taking a few more one-timers. He had shots from left, right and centre the other night and the goalie just beat him. Five scoring chances against the Bruins in one night is a lot.”

WELCOME, LAKERS

The Leafs had some special guests Wednesday during their practice at the MasterCard Centre. The entire Lake Superior State NCAA men’s team was there at the invitation of assistant coach Keith Acton. The Lakers are playing Ryerson and York and Acton’s son Will is a forward on the club.


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