Friends come through for Ramage

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:34 PM ET

TORONTO - The Chicago Blackhawks started a four-game road trip in Toronto on Saturday, but head coach Joel Quenneville and assistant Mike Kitchen went an extra few miles.

They were up at 6 a.m. on game day to drive to Kingston to visit old friend Rob Ramage in prison after a legal setback on Friday. Ramage, who has served eight months of a four-year sentence for drunk driving that caused the death of passenger Keith Magnuson in 2003, was hoping to be released to a halfway house.

But a parole board could not agree to the request and granted him only 72 hours of unsupervised time a month. Another hearing will be held on the issue later this year.

Ramage’s permanent home is in St. Louis where Quenneville and Kitchen were head coaches of the Blues. All three were employed by the Leafs at various times.

Turf wars in the East

The Leafs had Sunday off and will fly to Long Island on Monday afternoon, but their time off will be severely limited the next two weeks. They play seven Eastern Conference opponents in 12 nights before getting another two-day break.

“It’s a lot of teams we’re familiar with and a lot of teams we’re fighting with who are right around the same position,” defenceman Luke Schenn said after Saturday’s 5-3 loss to Chicago. “These are big four-point games and we definitely need to show we can compete and that we belong in the playoffs.

The Leafs had a bad case of shell shock on Saturday when the defending champion Blackhawks burned them at both ends of the ice. But prior to that, they’d gained points in nine straight games (6-0-3).

“A perfect week would have been getting points in all three (against Pittsburgh, Philadelphia nd Chicago),” Schenn said. “Unfortunately it’s tough to come back on a team like Chicago. It’s unrealistic to be perfect all the way down the stretch. You’ll have the odd bump in the road.

“We still have lots of games. I don’t think we’ve all figured out what we have to do mathematically, but the main thing is we’re still in control of whether or not we make it.”

Reimer primed

Coach Ron Wilson was quick to say after Saturday that rookie James Reimer would be back in goal against the Islanders after getting pulled against Chicago. Reimer gave up five goals on 18 shots in two periods. Jean-Sebastian Giguere made six saves in the third.

“James had a game very similar to this in Buffalo (five goals against in a 6-2 loss) and the next time he got in, he played great. It was just one of those games.”

Reimer, who could do little about most of Chicago’s goals, is anxious to get back on the horse. He heard a few Bronx cheers for stopping an easy puck after Chicago’s 2-0 lead, though there were plenty of giddy Hawk fans in the building.

“You want to put on a show for the home fans,” Reimer said with regret. “If there’s a place you want to lose. it’s on the road. Having said that, being on a (6-0-3) run makes this easier to swallow, because you know you’re playing well and this is a little blip on the radar.

“I’m going to come back Monday and stop as many pucks as I can, stay after practice and work, work, work.”

Loose Leafs

Toronto was charged with 16 giveaways on Saturday and whether its coaching staff believes the consistency of such data or not, that’s 734 in 66 games, most in the league. The L.A. KIngs are the next closest team with 679 ... The Leafs did deliver 37 hits, many of them heavy jolts. Leading the way was winger Mike Brown with six as well as four shots on goal, making good on a promise to show his boyhood team he was going to be active.


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