March 9, 2011
Leafs react to Chara hit
By ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency
TORONTO - As it was throughout the hockey world, the topic of Boston Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara’s devastating check on Montreal forward Max Pacioretty was the hot one in the Maple Leafs dressing room Wednesday following practice.
As a team that has seen its share of the towering defenceman, the Leafs know that Chara can hit to hurt.
“It was a bad hit but I don’t think it was meant to be a dirty hit,” Leafs forward Clarke MacArthur said. “He just went in there really hard. He’s such a big guy out there that when he hits a guy, it’s a lot more painful than when I hit someone.”
Forward Phil Kessel, a former teammate of Chara’s in Boston, said the big man is not a cheapshot artist.
“He’s a great guy and a great teammate,” Kessel said. “I think it’s an unfortunate situation with the glass there. Obviously he’s probably the strongest guy in the league and he’s just going to overpower you.”
“It’s unfortunate where it happened,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said. “But I didn’t think it was a dirty play. Chara is the strongest player in the league by far.”
While scoring the first goal of his NHL career was the highlight of the night for rookie Leafs defenceman Keith Aulie on Tuesday, the confidence he has gained from the coaching staff is even more impressive.
Aulie was on the ice for a whopping 37 shifts and more than 22 minutes in the 4-3 overtime loss to the New York Islanders.
“It’s a good feeling knowing they want you out there in key situations,” Aulie said. “It makes recovery that much more important. You have to be focussed to play that much every night.”
As for the goal, Aulie said he got some predictable good-natured ribbing from his teammates.
“Maybe the boys were giving it to me saying it was about time I got one,” Aulie said. “I’ve had a few good chances so it was nice to get one.
“I’ve been focussing so much on the defensive part that I haven’t got rolling offensively. It’s not a huge part of my game, but I do like to chip in.”
The Flyers snapped a four-game losing streak on Tuesday with a 4-1 win over the Oilers but Philly captain Chris Pronger wasn’t pleased with the effort.
The veteran defenceman ripped into his team afterward in an attempt to avoid a second consecutive loss to the Leafs Thursday at the Air Canada Centre.
“I would say (we played) 23, 24 good minutes the way we need to play to be successful,” Pronger said. “We played a team that had a lot of injuries and a lot of youth and we were able to capitalize on some chances early.”
With Brett Lebda and Mike Komisarek struggling, Wilson leaned on his other four defenceman more than usual on Tuesday. The coach would rather split up the ice time more, but doles it out based on what he sees that night.
“The young guys on defence are playing really well,” Wilson said. “I would like some people to play a little bit better on the back end, so we don’t have to kill people.
“If someone is struggling in a game, that’s my responsibility.
“The player doesn’t want that to happen, but if bad things are happening on the ice, you’ve got to rely on the other guys. If the goalie is struggling, you pull the goalie. If it’s a defenceman that’s struggling, then he gets less ice time as the game goes on.”