Fitness pays off for Leafs

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:02 AM ET

Like a proud papa, player agent Gary Greenstin was at the Toyota Center in suburban L.A. to meet clients Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin. After some adjustment problems in Toronto, especially with the often reckless Grabovski, the two Russian-speaking players have formed two-thirds of the Leafs’ best line, a combined 62 points and plus six.

Greenstin credited the start to a conditioning program he arranged through Todd Norman of Cutting Edge Sports Training. Norman, a former linebacker at the University of Nevada, had the duo at his Orange County gym and on the ice for three weeks in the summer.

“It’s made a huge difference,” Greenstin said.

Coach Ron Wilson certainly saw a different side of Grabovski, who has had a thrilling few weeks with the birth of his first child and 12 goals in his past 14 games. His career high is 20 from two years ago.

“Mikhail deserves all the credit, putting in the time before and after practice,” Wilson said. “He takes a lot of shots. He’s dialed it down to when he shoots high, it’s under the crossbar and when he goes five-hole, it goes five-hole.

“He went through a tough time last year, but it was of his own making. He didn’t work hard in the summertime. This year he did.”

LEAFS SEEING STARS?

The Leafs’ sudden offensive surge — 20 goals in the past four games — might give the NHL operations department some late pause for thought to add a Toronto player for the all-star game on Jan. 30 in Raleigh. The league is hoping to have all 30 clubs represented in either the main game or the rookie showcase, but clubs such as the Leafs, Devils and Islanders aren’t making it easy.

Grabovski, Kulemin or their left winger Clarke MacArthur would be under consideration.

WELCOME BACK KOPITAR

Anze Kopitar is now more than halfway to the 81 points he scored last season, and is back leading his team in scoring by 10 points.

Kings coach Terry Murray was asked how close the centre is to being a complete player again after a slow start.

“After (a 6-4 win over Columbus on Saturday), he was a real horse,” Murray said. “It was one of his better games of the year. He really wanted to take control. He handled the puck with authority every time he was on the ice, he was attacking, he wanted to make a play and that’s a wonderful attitude to see with your top player.

“If he follows that kind of a game up ... he’s clearly among an elite group of guys in the league down the middle. His size, strength, power and attitude about playing in the heavy going ... he has no issue playing there. With the power he has, he’s able to get through on the other side and make something good happen. (Saturday) was the type of game we saw early last year.”

LOOSE LEAFS

Murray might have been running the Leafs had things turned out differently in the spring of 1998. Club president Ken Dryden interviewed Murray for the Toronto job, while not officially letting incumbent Mike Murphy go, which created an awkward situation for all concerned. The Leafs eventually turned to Pat Quinn ... Leafs GM Brian Burke and Ryan Smyth of the Kings have a public Q and A scheduled after Monday’s game for what’s being called Canadian Pride Night at the Staples Center ... The Kings are also honouring Congressional Medal of Honour winner and Afghanistan hero Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta before the hockey game.


Videos

Photos